With the end of the last week-off of the year approaching with considerable speed, I decided last Thursday to seize the moment and catch the ferry to Shenzhen with Brandy. The journey itself was without problem or major incident, though I was very surprised to find it was Brandy’s first time on a boat ever. The plan for what to do when we got there was, in retrospect, vague and poorly thought-through, like so many of the best plans are. First we went to find Sandy, a friend from the beach bar at home. She’s studying in a university there and at least had prior warning that we were coming. Leaving the ferry we found that a car with a rich Sri Lankan man was waiting to pick us up and take us most of the way there.
At the university Sandy took us to her class. Nobody really seemed to mind that there were two non-student foreigners sitting at the back, though we did get a fair bit of attention. Nobody seemed to be paying any attention to the lecturer at the front in any case. After the first class there was another, which was much the same, then after a bit of food we were interviewed for the college radio station.
The main reason I was in Shenzhen in the first place was to visit a girl called Shinney. I had e-mailed her to say I was coming a week previously. I should probably have called her the day before to say I was coming but for some reason it didn’t cross my mind. It was only on leaving the radio studio that I managed to get through to her. She was in a taxi and didn’t seem absolutely glad to be hearing from me. There was far too much noise at her end to communicate in English, so I passed the phone to Sandy to try to work something out.
Ten minutes later I was on a bus into the centre of the city with a single bar left on my phone, a scrap of paper with a subway station name, an agreement to meet there, nowhere to stay, and a creeping sense of panic. With the assistance of a very helpful bus conductor woman I got off at the right stop and caught the train. All-in-all it took me well over an hour to travel from the university to the centre. As each mile passed the chances of being able to find Brandy & Sandy later on got slimmer. I had imagined Shenzhen was around the same size as Zhuhai (a million people or so) but if I had done a little research I would have found out that it is, for example, about twice the size of London.
Fortunately I managed to find Shinney, and she was more welcoming than I possibly could’ve hoped. We went for dinner at a Hunan restaurant first and chatted over a hotpot. I wasn’t sure what kind of fish to have so the waiter took us through the kitchen to a dark alley where we picked out a fish from a stone tank. Ten minutes later it was bubbling in a pot on our table.
After eating we took another hour-long bus journey to visit her friend Annie, probably the most hyperactive Chinese person I’ve ever met. She lives on the 9th floor of an apartment building without a lift, so we went up there, sat down for a while to catch our breath, then went downstairs to have some drinks at a street barbecue. While we were sitting there a very drunk man came up to the next table and poured their beer on the floor. For a minute it looked like a fight was going to break out but it turned out they were friends, so they just sat there and smashed bottles until the waitress nicely asked them to stop.
Fortunately I had somewhere to stay for the night, then, and a comfortable place too. Waking the next morning I found that a mosquito had bitten my right eyelid, causing it to swell up to twice the size. It wasn’t pretty.
I followed Shinney’s directions to take a bus back to the port and met up with Brandy there. She’d been to some expensive hotel, danced on the stage with a band, got a nice hat, generally had a good time.
Then it was time to get back on the boat, and back to work.
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