29 November 2018

November 2017: This Time Last Year...

Last November was a month that kick-started my life in China and the unveiling of some very special news. My visa documents were getting sorted at long last and that flight had been booked to Beijing, China. Having the opportunity to spend some time in Gerrards Cross with my aunt and cousins was nice, it allowed me to see London on three occasions. Yes, I'm now an uncle! 

My transition back from China to England for my passport and visa change was no joke, getting down to London for a double win had to be the one! Getting into the city wasn't all about that visa, no I got myself to three places within the 'City of London' in one day! Kicking off the day with the visa business I had that all taken care of before 10:30am. Keeping within that Bank vicinity I chose St. Paul's Cathedral for starters! Paying the entry fee was no joke but the cathedral interior was just as iconic as its exterior. London was working it like a professional, walking down the street were no supermodels no, I was living for their savagely handsome and sharply dressed city gents. Keeping it in the game I learnt a thing or two about the Bank of London at the museum, our British currency has never looked so good with Jane Austen representing lady Britannia for her writing efforts. LDN left me wanting more! So, the category was...L?

L, yes for Leadenhall Market! I needed a triple threat for my 'City of London' day out during early November 2017. Getting it together I saw a lot, that historic market sat amongst London's banking heartland with such a contrast as glass towered above that Victorian landmark. Those suits though! Lady London always shows me those sights! I caught a burrito for tea, remembering my budget it was back on the London Underground to Uxbridge. I was staying with my paternal aunt and cousins in Gerrards Cross, being located so close to the District and Piccadilly Lines made getting into the city much simpler than the train into London Marylebone. The road to that moment at the Chinese Visa Centre had been a rocky one, things had happened and then sometimes things didn't but by hook or by crook things had progressed enough for me to received a very important piece of paper. That day in London gave me life, it gave me the momentum to see things were going the right way!

New rules meant I needed to return in the next few days to get some fingerprints done at the Chinese Embassy. Going Underground once again from Uxbridge was easy, getting those prints I made it over towards Portobello Road for its world famous market. The Trellick Tower stood before me, reminding me that not too far down the road there had been the recent massacre that destroyed Grenfell Tower. I shelved my previous plans to find a trendy steak place for a Moroccan food truck that served me some seriously delicious cuisine! Making my way further down Portobello Road Market, I embraced the different colours, smells and sights that passed me by. For that reason its why I love London, its a city that has so much diversity and so much going for itself in one place, there's no other city quite like it ever to exist in the world over. Saying that with those wicked prices, you need proper paper to live in London!

Leaving the market area behind me I was faced with another contradiction within London's Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington, from the Trellick Tower to lavishly designed homes that weren't too far away from each other, London is a city of economic extremes! Kensington Gardens fared to be my final port of call, that regal park area was surrounded by a seriously nice postcode and those establishments looked damn expensive. London love aside I was missing the madness of China, those extremes are part of everyday life because social classes are so vastly spread apart but its just life there. Before realising it my phone hadn't got hardly any battery left, running down to the nearest Piccadilly Underground station had to be, mind I don't ever run! Making back with just enough power in my phone, I met my auntie just in the nick of time! London had been lovely once again, it was lovely to be back! My visa would be ready for collection, beckoning my return to China! I was ready!

I made sure I booked that Emirates ticket once my visa appointment was confirmed. Flying from Birmingham to Beijing via Dubai was something that I had wanted to do for a longtime. Taking off in an eastern direction felt great, I was ready to travel back to China in style. The in-flight entertainment was amazing with enough drinks to last before the meal was served it was great! I got speaking to the crew, they were lovely and agreed to a photo in front of the Emirates logo in the galley. I truly loved the first sector from Birmingham to Dubai. The connection time in Dubai was seamless, everything was really easy to find and I had arrived into the same concourse that the Beijing flight was being prepared. Seeing people with their hot water thermoses and instant noodle told me I had arrived to the correct gate. I was on my way back to China and that was the thing, the second flight was so quiet and the crew weren't so chatty.

Landing back into China was a funny old business, I had taken great care to make the most of the in-flight refreshments so my temperature appeared higher than usual, that played havoc when I walked through one of the heat sensors before I could proceed to immigration. I used my Chinese skills to convince the staff that they were wasting their time and that I was fine, as if luck would have it I got my passport stamped not long after by a customs officer into China. Checking into my company paid hotel allowed me to sleep some of the jet lag off but that epic journey had been smooth with Emirates for sure! Getting a few things straight the next day I was able to get my bank account in check and find an apartment in the outlying airport suburb of Shunyi. I had been preparing myself because I wanted the noise like Wuhan but in the long run I knew that Shunyi would be the district for me. November 2017 was a month to wait for, I was more than ready to break some hearts in Beijing!

I started off with a day out to Beijing's Olympic Village and Forest Park during my first week living in Shunyi, Beijing. I had a huge list that consisted of all the hotspots to visit in Beijing. I wanted to get back into my China blog posts but something or should I say somewhere stole my attention for a brief moment, well maybe more than that! Destination had been a club I had been looking to frequent for a long time! Having the chance I made the bold decision to visit, it was like no other Gay Club I had ever visited before in my life! The guys were on-point for the most of, serving their China doll Realness with their voguing moves on the podium mesmerised me for sure! I was living my best Beijing life, their were many bumps in the roads waiting to shake things up but amongst the beauties and the strobe lights it was all good in that moment. The the Great Wall needed to wait, I had to dance all night Bei!

Things worked out like a firework going off in someones living room but life turned it all around. With all of its twists and turns, November 2017 finally got everything together and me back in China more importantly. My brief visit to London to sort my visa out was full of adventures, allowing me to see parts and places in London that I hadn't seen before was great! Spending time with my paternal side of my family was nice, its not often it happens but that branch of the tree won't be getting broken off. Flying in-style had to be the one with Emirates, those flights were worth every penny truly. Arriving back to the dramas of China is always a plus and sure I faced a few during that first month or few for that matter. Beijing life is here to stay in the here and now, things have changed a lot since restarting work during that previous November time but everything has been for a reason. Beijing may have been a place that's taken a lot to get to but its all been worth it! Yes, Bei!

Yes, November!

Joseph Harrison 

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