Coming up to two weeks in the greenest city in China now, and “teaching” starts tomorrow. I’m not nervous really, no point in it when these promise to be some of the least stressful jobs I’ve ever had.
Living here is fantastically easy. The flat is basic even by Czech standards, but I’ve never been fussy about that. The water is undrinkable, the bed rock hard, the sofa made of unpadded wood. None of these problems bother me too much. On the upside living costs are ridiculously low. If I feel like cooking I can make a meal for pennies, if I can’t be bothered I can get a takeaway from downstairs for about the same. Even electronic equipment and non-bootleg DVDs are cheap – this is where they all come from.
In Prague I could blend in. Here this is impossible. If you see a white face on the street you’ll both stop and talk to each-other. Half the foreigners in the city seem to be my colleagues. At night we happen upon each-other outside and hang out on walls in front of buildings with security guards or at the open air bar outside a supermarket. It’s almost t-shirt weather at night and I keep feeling like I’m at Glastonbury.
As for the city itself, everything seems to be new but dirty. There’s a smog that hangs over the place all day but at the same time huge green parks everywhere. From the balcony in the flat, through the prison bars, you can see out into the Pearl River Delta, watch oily fishing boats making their way out to the South China Sea.
Don’t know if I want to eat anything caught here though. We’ve been out to a fair few introductory meals, each one a proper banquet. The potato cakes and spicy pork are the best I’ve tasted so far. You have to be careful though – not only are they even keener on offal than the Slavs, they’re also even more likely to give it a bizarre and inaccurate name. “Phoenix claws” are battered chicken feet. You don’t want to know what “dragon fights tiger” is.
I’m still worried about my health, but have been told by everyone that I shouldn’t worry about it too much. Easier said than done. My money is running low too, but I can survive on almost nothing so that isn’t a problem. Altogether things seem to be going ok.
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