Express Delivery

Day 207 (3rd of October, 2016) – Shanghai, China

I was thankful to wake up feeling healthy given my sickness last night. A decent sleep-in helped to completely rid of any lasting fatigue. From the time that I got out of bed, five of the eight hours of daylight left were spent in front of my computer tutoring. I feel like I could sit the HSC again next week I’ve done so much preparation. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, though. I’m surprised that I’m yet to grow sick of tutoring at all – I find it really fulfilling. I found teaching very young children in Xuzhou to be quite taxing, but when I’m teaching students whose ability is at a level I can grapple with, everything becomes more entertaining and thought-provoking.

In between the work, I still did manage to find time to have an enjoyable lunch. I messaged a few friends and before I knew it, Carrie was on her way to meet me for a meal. We went to the place that I had gone to with my classmates just a few days before. Here, we ordered some chilli peanut chicken and garlic vegetables. It was a great meal and an enjoyable conversation, but part way through it Carrie received the devastating news that her university peer who was studying in Nanjing suddenly died. A stark reminder of how one day someone can be there, and the next day they’re gone. It hit home as being even more devastating because it happened in a foreign land. They don’t know how it happened, but here’s hoping that Carrie and her friends aren’t too affected by it.

I did what I could to offer my support and try and brighten up the sombre mood. Luckily the menu helped – it had a few cracker mistranslations.

Our favourites were “swallow the latter”, “a toast”, “phonetic symbol” and “soil in five years”.

Following the lunch and a few more hours of work, I finally had a spare moment to properly begin organising the back half of November. My high school friends Alex, Dylan, Ben and Lachie look like they might be able to join me after their university exams finished. We figured out that our interest all overlaps in Asia, and considering I was already thinking of doing South Korea they expressed interest in going to that part of the world. A few hours and a few calls to some Korean friends later, I had a draft itinerary:

22 – 24 November: Taipei, Taiwan
25 – 28 November: Seoul, South Korea
29 – 30 November: Sokcho, South Korea
1 – 3 December: Busan, South Korea
4 – 5 December: Jeonju, South Korea

I’m extraordinarily excited. Travel is a whole different experience when it’s with a big group of mates. Asia in particular feels like a different continent – you see it through a different lens when you’re with other people. It should be a great couple of weeks. I’m picturing many nights of Korean BBQ, soju and hot springs to finish off. A temple stay on a mountain also sounds in order.

My dreaming was interrupted by a call on my phone and a Chinese man screaming through the speaker “KUAIDI, KUAIDI”. That means “express delivery”, so I figured that my Taobao order had arrived and went down to the first floor. Sure enough, a man on an e-bike was there waiting for me with a Santa sack of goodies to distribute to the dozen or so people in my hotel who had orders. He handed me a package and sped off.

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It certainly wasn’t big enough to be everything I ordered. It ended up being the hand sanitiser – they deliver everything separately as soon as it becomes available. For a few extra cents I bought the hand sanitiser with the included elastic tag. What a bargain.

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Having spent much of the day speaking English with people back home through tutoring and holiday organising, I started getting a craving for some Western food. Specifically, I felt like pizza. My attempts to round up a group of friends to venture out to the other side of the city for some proper Italian pizza failed. So, lacking the motivation to cross all the way to the French Concession 0n my own, I jumped on my bike and rode to the Pizza Hut near my hotel.

It’s better than it sounds, though. Pizza Hut in China, as Aimee and the family can testify to, is like a restaurant. The menu is a magazine.

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I ended up going with Western/Asian fusion by ordering a Peking duck pizza – my absolute favourite pizza topping (which I first discovered in Xuzhou).

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A brief stop at the nearby Carrefour ended up being a good choice. This Carrefour sells cheap fresh milk – something which the normal Carrefour that I go to doesn’t (or at least I’m yet to find it). I’m happy now that I can make the switch from long-life milk for my morning breakfast. The cheapest one is still expensive though at AU$2.40/litre, but what can you do.

I had a bit of an epiphany while I was browsing the aisles with my helmet dangling off my wrist in Carrefour. It’s taken me 207 days to realise just how independent I’ve become. I’m surviving in the big bad world. I have a bad habit of not stopping to appreciate achievements like that enough. To think about how many times in my teens I dreamed of this day and yet now that I’m here I hardly acknowledge it. I enjoyed the rest of the shopping experience and the ride home while I sat with that thought.

Day 208 (4th of October, 2016) – Shanghai, China

Today was yet another day dedicated to relaxation. After my delight at the ease of the Taobao ordering yesterday, I decided that I’d see what all the fuss was with food delivery in China. Contributing to my impending obesity, I was swayed by Maccas’ incredible offer for a user’s first delivery – a free taro pie. Bargain.

Twenty minutes later, there was a knock at my door. TWENTY MINUTES.

“KUAIDI” the man shouted.

I arose from my slumber with my pyjamas still sticking to my skin and giggled at how atrociously lazy this was. I took my meal and the driver ran off.

I was feeling so good about this delivery service that I decided to test out the most absurd thing I could think of: getting something delivered from the shop on the 1st floor of my hotel. I looked up one of the 3rd party Chinese delivery services and sure enough they offered delivery from that very store. I selected a can of Coke (AU$0.79) and express delivery (AU$0.40). Five minutes later: a knock at my door.

“KUAIDI KUAIDI” he yelled. That was becoming a familiar sound now, and I got the feeling that I would be hearing it much more before I leave.

I was smiling uncontrollably as I approached the door only to find a man in his twenties puffing after having driven his e-bike to my hotel just to buy me a Coke from the bottom floor.

That’s living.

My day then transitioned into a familiar pattern of tutoring and holiday booking. In the few hours I spent looking at accommodation today, I booked and paid for stays in two cities.

Stockholm, Sweden:

And Helsinki, Finland:

I still saw no reason to leave my room and was embracing being a slob just for one day, so I decided to order dinner. I did make the transition back to Chinese food for this meal. I ate chicken, mushroom and tofu rice while on the phone to Dad.

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What a day. Tomorrow it was time to get out and do something, though.

Day 209 (5th of October, 2016) – Shanghai, China

I arose at 6:30am to march on over to Chifeng Road station. There was an optional class excursion to Changning Island today.

As some context, each university class in China elects a “class monitor”. It feels like high school, but anyhow… The class monitor has the job of sending messages in the class WeChat group reminding everyone to study and to organise “class activities”. Today was one such activity. Our class monitor, Rohit, came up with the idea of organising a trip to Shanghai’s northernmost district for anyone who was still in the city over Golden Week. I happily joined in – it was an opportunity for me to follow and not to lead. Organising your own days gets very tiring after 200 days of doing it.

On the way to the metro station, I received an email which made my departure from Shanghai a little earlier. It looks like I’m going to have the opportunity to go to Hong Kong to do some work experience with the Wall Street Journal for a few days. I’m ecstatic. It will no doubt mean a few days of hard work, but I couldn’t think of a more exciting project to put those long hours into.

And so I arrived at the metro station briefly cured of my fatigue.

I later received pictures of my sudden collapse back into a sleep on the metro.

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We took the metro as far north as you could go before switching to a public bus.

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A little over half an hour later, the bus arrived at the ferry terminal. Not sure why a ticket selling hall requires such large chimneys.

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We were in for a 40 minute wait for the next departure. It gave me time to take a wander around the shipping port.

The group met an incredibly cute young girl whose parents were encouraging her to go up to the foreigners and talk to them.

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While we were speaking with her, a shuttle bus arrived for our transfer to the wharf.

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The ferry was surprisingly large. It was big enough to carry a few hundred people and dozens of cars.

The whole boat trip took over one and a half hours, meaning that the total travel time just to reach the island was about three hours and twenty minutes. I was entertained on the boat by some interesting conversations with the young girl, though.

Stepping onto the main port of the island, it became apparent very quickly that this part of Shanghai is remarkably bland.

It was polluted and grey, but most notably, it seemed to lack any sort of culture or unique characteristics. It was like stepping back in time. Stepping back into the industrial parts of Xuzhou, even. I didn’t mind so much. I was enjoying reading my book during every wait and just taking the day as it came.

We were strolling down the main street and a few of the others started expressing their complaints that there was nothing to do. Everyone was thinking the same thing, but it was incredibly awkward when someone said it out loud because the class monitor was standing just next to us. He immediately looked embarrassed and suggested that we go to Changning Island’s most famous attraction – a park. We agreed, and before we knew it we were in some guy’s car.

“How long’s this drive going to be?” I asked as I squashed into the cramped and overfilled Tarago.

“About 40 minutes,” Rohit said.

If a camera had been filming, I would have done a camera stare. At least it was more time that I could spend reading.

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When I finally emerged from the tiny seat, I was hit with one of the most atrocious smells I’ve ever come across in China. And that’s a high bar.

The whole park smelled of it. I quickly worked out why. This wasn’t any regular park. It was a crabbing park.

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Bridges dodged their way through a bamboo forest to provide people with the best access points to the mud beneath.

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Elderly women were selling bamboo sticks with bait so that you could attempt to catch your own mud crabs.

I baited one up for myself and caught a few small ones.

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My catches were nowhere near as impressive as some people’s.

As we walked along the wooden platform, we eventually made our way to a vantage point to see the whole bamboo forest. It was like a green sea.

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I wonder how many mud crabs would be hidden under there.

In another direction, you could see the sea.

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The group made sure to snap a few photos before heading off. Included are two Indians, four Russians, two Hungarians, a Mongol and a Nigerian.

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We took a different path back to the entrance, passing by rows of trees in the process.

The exit gate was next to a part of the river which you could hire boats in. We passed on the opportunity and left to find some food.

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The Russian girls were beginning to complain loudly about their empty stomachs. It was becoming more and more awkward for the class monitor who hadn’t anticipated the lack of restaurants and heavy traffic. He brought us to a farmer’s market and told us to fill up there.

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You can see by the way that the sellers sat with their produce that this didn’t seem like the most attractive idea.

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I did buy one thing, though. A big block of niangao, or glutinous rice cake. It had plenty of pecan nuts and raisins mixed in. It was warm and doughy, making for a good snack for the trip home.

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None of the others found anything which particularly pleased their tastebuds, so we settled on the only restaurant on offer. To put it simply, it was the most disgusting establishment I have ever step foot into. I question why I risked even ordering food – most people didn’t. I ended up copping the bill for someone who forgot their wallet too (and I doubt I’m going to be payed back). The floors were filthy and the staff wouldn’t clean them despite repeated requests. The kitchen had no separation from the toilet and the dishes were being cleaned in dirty water on the mud. My eggplant was cold and mushy. 0/10 experience.

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It was already getting late and most people were in a testy mood. I was OK – once again I was just relaxed from not having to put any thought in the day. The prospect of a four hour journey home (likely longer with peak hour traffic) did not sound appealing, though. I could get to Perth in a little over that time from Sydney.

In the bus back to the wharf, one of the Indians reminded us for the hundredth time that he was in Shanghai doing his PhD in international relations. I asked him for his opinions on who lay claim to Kashmir in the India/Pakistan dispute as a way to start conversation and learn something new, but he quickly became far too passionate and treated it as a challenge from my end. I backed off very quickly. He then started denouncing the US and Western propaganda machine, saying that Russia lay claim to Crimea and that Al-Assad’s regime should be supported in Syria. I knew far too little (and was far too wise) to contribute to that conversation.

The others caught a bus under the sea back to Shanghai and I decided to go on the boat because it was slightly quicker. The only other people who went on the boat were the Hungarian couple. The boat was very crowded but luckily we got a seat. Unfortunately, it was directly next to a man who, no joke, spat in a bin next to him a few times every minute. Each time he charged one up one of us would dry retch. It was truly revolting. One of the Hungarians asked him to stop but it did nothing.

It wasn’t until almost 8pm that we arrived in the city centre of Shanghai. I followed the Hungarians to their favourite dumpling house at Hongkou Plaza one metro station away from the guesthouse.

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“Yang’s dumplings” are known for their bready texture and crispy bottom. They tasted like they had come straight off an Australian BBQ.

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My trip back to the guesthouse was only delayed slightly by quickly going to get some photos for my US Visa. Arriving back was incredibly relieving. It was one of those nights where you just can’t help but audibly let out a sigh of relief when you finally lay down in bed.

Day 210 (6th of October, 2016) – Shanghai, China

This morning’s sleep-in was very satisfying after the long day of travel yesterday. It was another stinking hot day. With dreams of cool weather and a fast-approaching winter, I figured that it was the perfect time to book accommodation in Rovaniemi, Finland. This city is the capital of Lapland, the region encompassing northern Sweden and Finland which is least densely populated part of Europe and likely the most densely populated with igloos, reindeer and huskies. Aimee and I are only staying in Rovaniemi for two nights before we catch a bus even deeper into Lapland to stay with a family just outside of Kittila.

For the first night we decided to stay with a highly rated AirBnB host. The place looks great and it’s in a good part of Rovaniemi, but the best part is that she’ll be able to do our transfers to and from different places. If we decide to do any winter activities like snowmobiling or reindeer sledding, they’ll swing straight past the house.

For the second night in Rovaniemi, we both decided that we would like to stay in an ice hotel. To save the explanation, let me show you the picture of the bed in our room.

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Yep. It’s a block of ice. Not sure if it’ll be the most comfortable sleep of our lives, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime that neither of us could resist.

Because all of the rooms are built by hand at the start of each season, they all look a bit different. There’s a few different ones we could get.

Our hotel will be providing us with reindeer skins as our shield against the igloo’s temperature, which is controlled at around -5℃ (better than the outdoors which can reach -35℃). From all the reviews which we’ve been reading, apparently it’s nowhere near as uncomfortable as it sounds. I’ll be interested to see what it’s like.

We can always retreat to one of the cosy restaurants if it gets too difficult. Hopefully we get a view like this in the sky…

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The hotel has a few other impressive structures which it builds each winter, like an ice fireplace and an ice chapel.

Booking Rovaniemi marked the last bit of accommodation which Aimee and I have to organise before we link up with the family in Paris. And do you want to know the bill?

*drumroll please*

$4873 each.

I think that’s an absolute steal. Considering that’s ALL accommodation (and quite good accommodation at that) prepaid for two whole months, ALL transport (flights, trains and busses to 11 destinations excluding the initial arrival and departure) and lots of added insurance to account for possible cancellations or date changing, that’s remarkably cheap. Also considering that 25% of that final figure is accounted for by four nights over the New Year period (a steep cost which we both anticipated from early in the planning process), the rest of the accommodation has been organised particularly well. Hi-fives to Aimee and I.

To anyone who doesn’t think they can afford a gap year (or a few months of independent travel), play your cards right and its very doable.

To celebrate, I headed out to find one of the more expensive cuisines in this city – Japanese. Unfortunately, I didn’t make a very good find (sorry for the bad photo).

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It was classic Japanese in Asia – no sushi (only nigiri, sashimi and ramen), and certainly no chicken. I was happy with nigiri and sashimi, but unfortunately there was no salmon or tuna. After racking up a decent bill off just three plates, I filled the rest of my stomach with a sandwich from the bakery.

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I took the opportunity of being in the Hongkou Football Stadium area to go and actually take a look at the venue. It’s the home of Shanghai Greenlands FC, one of the two Shanghai teams in the national football competition.

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All of the shops on the second level of the stadium are open even when there’s no event on. I had a stroll through a few of them and even found the indoor climbing centre which Carrie frequents (I should accept one of her invitations at some point…).

After a couple more hours of work back in my room, I once again resorted to ordering dinner. By using a new service for the first time, I was able to get this chicken dinner completely for free.

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You can imagine how hard it is navigating Chinese apps for the first time.

After the meal I departed for the evening’s destination: Elevator Bar. I had been dying to try this venue out for some time, specifically because on Thursday they bring out ping pong tables. I was keen to test out my skills with a few friends. I messaged Carrie who was already in the area to see if she wanted to join me and round up a few others. It turned out that she had taken her roommate out to a birthday dinner, and they agreed to stop by on the way home. They arrived at the bar before me only to send me a message telling me that it was closed for Golden Week. Such a shame. They headed home while I found myself in the metro system without a clue of how I should spend my night. I figured that I didn’t really want to just go to a venue and have a drink by myself, but I still wanted to meet some people and have a chat. I decided to go to a bar and get a meal instead, hoping that it would result in meeting some new friends.

I had read in a magazine about “Uptown Records ‘n Beer”, a cool vinyl shop near the Shanghai Library close to Jing’An. I decided to reroute my journey there in the hope that it would be the sort of place that I was after. When I turned up, I was confronted with a tiny room no larger than 10m². Inside it had tube guitar amplifiers and vinyls scattered over the shelves. And most importantly, a bar. No food, obviously. I was just about to ditch when I heard the conversation happening behind me – they sounded like me.

Before long, I had met all six people lingering around the little room. The group, mostly from England but also with a few from Canada and the US, were extremely colourful. They were classy, intelligent and cultured with their music. I liked it. I spent the next few hours chatting with my British friends about The Smiths, The Cure and The Stone Roses before they had to head off.

“All good mate, where are you heading off to?” I asked, slightly disappointed.

“Oh we’re just going to set up tonight’s gig. You can come check us out later if you want?” the guy from Newcastle suggested.

“You’re in a band?” This was getting better by the minute.

“Oh no, I’m not, but one of my mates is an act who’s signed to my grime label.”

Who runs a grime label in Shanghai? A hipster does. I’ve found some entertaining company for my last month here it seems.

I decided that I’d pop in to the gig later in the evening but in the meantime I would continue enjoying myself and meeting new people. The crowd was all in their late 20s and early 30s. Without being obnoxious I think that this is an age group whose company I enjoy much more. It was my scene all over.

The night ended with a good old-fashioned game of Twister while we added different Talking Heads singles to the vinyl queue.

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Following a few rounds the shop closed and we all found ourselves out on the streets. Most people headed off while I decided to walk up the road to the grime gig. For those who don’t know, grime is effectively UK hip-hop. It formed from a merger of UK garage and jungle in East London. For the outsider listener, what strikes you immediately is its heavy, dark and off-centre beats with thick, thick, THICK British accents over them. Think artists like Dizzee Rascal or Skepta. Here’s a track if you’re interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOhxPhqzMwg

“The Shelter” is one of Shanghai’s most iconic underground music venues, and it was only a two minute walk away.

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As soon as you get down these stairs, it’s just a black rubber tunnel which you have to crouch in for about 20 metres. The scene down there was pretty cool. I only stayed for about 20 minutes because I was tired and had no company, but I’m still glad that I went – it showed me that the underground scene in Shanghai is alive and well.

Leaving the venue and continuing down the street, I glanced up to find a street sign and instruct my Didi of where to pick me up. Squinting, I spotted a sign saying “Yongfu Lu”.

Uh oh.

I know Yongfu Lu. Every Shanghai-er knows Yongfu Lu. It’s marijuana central. I turned around to look at the people on the footpath, and right on cue I was approached by a Xinjianger whispering “Hashish? Weed? Marijuana?”

I wasn’t aware that the three were any different, but anyway. It’s the second time I’ve been offered drugs in public, the other time being with Gary and Rondel in Nimbin.

I walked down the street to the next intersection and was approached by no less than another half a dozen Xinjiangers offering the same thing. Well, at least I know which street to go to if I want a death sentence from the Chinese judiciary.

Day 211 (7th of October, 2016) – Shanghai, China

I woke up still in high spirits from the new friends I made the night before. As with many friends I’ve made since leaving school, I realised that the friendships would lack permanence unless I CHOSE to pursue them. Unlike in high school where you’re forced to turn up to the same campus as your friends every day, I’ve quickly realised that being separated in the real world makes genuine connections require more effort to foster. So, I sent a few messages and received a few positive replies which was a good sign.

Being the last day of Golden Week meant that today required a bit of study to catch up on the revision that the rest of my class was doing over the break. There is a topic test tomorrow (or at least I think there is… they used the same word as they did in Xuzhou to indicate some sort of memory test), so I spent a few hours memorising how to write about 60 words. Hopefully they’ll stay in my long-term memory – keeping them there is always a challenge.

While I was working away, I received a call.

“KUAIDI” someone shouted down the speaker.

You beauty. I threw on some thongs and headed down the lift to collect my goods from level one as instructed. Unfortunately not every driver comes to your room.

I received another call while in the lift.

“KUAIDI! KUAILAI KUAILAI!” (express post, come quickly!)

“Dui dui dui, wo mashang daole” (Yeah yeah yeah, I’m about to get there) I replied, a little annoyed at the only 30 second space between the calls.

I eventually found my deliveryman and after verifying my phone number, he handed me a box.

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I stepped in the lift and was flicking through my phone when I noticed something odd – the two numbers which called me were different. Wait a second… I dashed back out of the lift. Lo and behold – another deliveryman.

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I’m having too much fun with these delivery services…

I hastily unwrapped my face masks and delicious Cadbury chocolate.

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$6 per block including delivery… pretty good considering it’s imported from Australia.

Included in the package was a postcard custom ordered by Todd when he did the purchasing for me. How thoughtful of him.

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“Time is like water, always silent. If you are well, is sunny.”

That’s a keeper. Makes me think what my Chinese postcards must be like.

I learned from earlier in the week when I buried myself in my room for the whole day that I needed to get out and about. So, I decided to jump on my bike and go a little further to find lunch. Carrie told me about a sushi restaurant next to her favourite coffee shop. Unfortunately it was closed when I arrived, so I went a few doors down and found a shop selling what looked to be some good noodles.

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While I was waiting for them to cook, I crossed the road and found a printing store which scanned in my US Visa photos and put them on my USB for me. It was a painful process. In China you really have to assert your spot in queues – staff will never go out of their way to determine who is rightfully next in line, they will just serve who ever is yelling at them the loudest. In the printing shop, the staff member’s technique seemed to be to finish 50% of every customer’s job so that he could get through the queue quickly and keep every customer waiting in agony. I was caught in the hold up, and eventually I yelled loudly like all of the others and got my job done.

I returned in time for my noodles to still be warm and sped back to my room.

The traffic around the university was already starting to build up. I turned on the news as soon as I got back only to see images like this emerging from cities all around the country. Golden Week is truly coming to a close!

Day 212 (8th of October, 2016) – Shanghai, China

Shout out to Dad for a very happy birthday today. Wish I could’ve been home to celebrate with him.

Unfortunately, in a reversal of usual trends, I was locked down in work on Saturday while Dad was partying back home. Like every public holiday in China, you get punished on the following weekend. Saturday and Sunday in China have been changed to Thursday and Friday for this week only. That’s right, for a seven day holiday, you have to suffer through a seven day working week.

That’s not on.

So, off I went to Saturday school. Was it as fun as it sounds? Pretty much. The good news was that despite thinking that there was a topic test on, it was only two students who got chosen to be tested on the blackboard out the front. Luckily I was one of the two chosen, and I seemed to be one of the few who prepared.

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They’re my characters on the left. Not a single one missed.

The second class, Chinese film, wasn’t as good. The film was boring and I was heavily criticised when I was chosen to read out a passage. The teacher, in a classic Chinese teaching style, was going around the class and getting everyone to read the exact same paragraph of dialogue one after the other.

Upon reaching me, she said: “OK, I’ve heard that paragraph enough. Read the next one for me.”

I was a little put off by this, especially since I’d been practicing the previous paragraph for the last ten minutes in my head.

I got through the new passage without missing a character, but it was choppy and lacked a consistent flow.

“That, boys and girls, is an example of a poor reading.” She announced to a class. “YiLiDan (my Chinese name), your reading wasn’t quite as smooth as everyone else in the class, maybe you need to do a little more practice at home.”

“Yes, maybe that’s because you changed my paragraph without any notice and the rest of the class had a warning to prepare?” I felt like saying, but I restrained and copped the embarrassment.

Following the class, I jumped on my bike rode to the street near the coffee shop again to find a different lunch. I was relieved to find a street vendor whipping up what looked to be some very tasty noodles. I was dying for some street food after being kept from it for so long since Xuzhou and Dan’s visit.

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The food was great and made with a hint of passion from the chef. I’ll be returning there after class another day.

The evening was spent working and spending some of my earnings on Taobao. I finally found some deodorant and a cool reusable coffee cup which will save me money used to buy coffees each day during class.

For dinner I rode to the “Ciao Café”, a funky little room just a few dozen metres from the guesthouse. It ended up being expensive even by Australian standards, but I put up with it and ordered a pizza. While I was waiting for my food, a German entered and began looking for a seat amongst the occupied tables. I offered him one at my table and we began talking. He’s from Munich and is also on his gap year, but he’s studying Chinese at Shanghai Finance University nearby. While we were talking about his recommendations for various Bavarian beer gardens to go to in Munich, I asked him if he happened to know any Australians at his university.

“I do actually, the club promoter at my uni is Australian,” he said.

“No way! Can I have his WeChat?” I asked.

Before long I was exchanging messages with this guy.

From Sydney? What a coincidence, I am too.
Studying with University of Sydney exchange students? What a coincidence, I’m going there.
Live in Hunters Hill? What a coincidence, I used to catch the ferry past there.
Went to Joeys? What a coincidence, I went to Riverview.

I couldn’t believe my luck. Looks like there’s someone very close to home living just near me. It’s only taken me a month to find someone! He quickly added me into Australian expat groups on Wechat with hundreds of members from Shanghai. It was my foot in the door of the Australian community.

Day 213 (9th of October, 2016) – Shanghai, China

Despite today being a Sunday, it was treated as a Friday. That meant three straight hours of intensive reading classes. Having prepared the night before it actually wasn’t so bad. In fact, I really enjoyed it. I did well in the class despite battling to stay awake at a few points.

Class was followed by five straight hours of tutoring with only a brief break for lunch.

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It was difficult at times, but only because it was mentally taxing. Very rewarding as per usual though. I’m finding myself personally invested in the results of my students which is a really good sign. Look out for some killer ATARs from the likes of Elijah Eales and Angus Gilbert…

All the class and work left me with very little time in the rest of my day. I headed straight from tutoring to a university function which was being held. The event was advertised as a “university party”. As Dad rightfully pointed out after sending him a few photos, this was the sort of university party which I wasn’t going to be mugged at. About 200 students ate stale food and stood awkwardly in a conference hall staring at some underwhelming musical acts with malfunctioning microphones. Each act ended with an over-dramatised plea from the MC to “sing and dance” in the next song. Needless to say, that received no response. It truly was a very strange experience. Actually, it was like every other Chinese welcoming event I’ve ever been to.

The principal’s speech to open the party was easily the highlight, though.

“… Remember, what’s most important about tonight’s party is that you follow all the laws of both China and the university. And remember not to use up too much energy during the festivities – the roll will be marked in class tomorrow and attendance is compulsory.”

I’m sorry, love, but no one is going to be breaking any laws at this university rave.

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I stood sipping on my green tea while exchanging banter with Latisha and Su before heading back to my room while they moved on to KTV to prove to themselves that they were better than the other dismal performances of the night.

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The photo above sums the night up. There was at least half a dozen photographers meant to capture every moment, but by this point in the night I was one of about twenty people left in the hall. It was very, very awkward. I didn’t have it in me to leave early because I knew that the last act was a big dance troupe from Pakistan, and I didn’t want the performers to outnumber the audience. So I stayed till the very end.

Everyone meant well. I just think that maybe SISU should stick to what they’re good at – education.

I hope everyone is well wherever you are in the world. Time is flying on my end and before you know it I’ll be seeing you all again.

Until next time,
Xavier.

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