I’ve been living in China for almost 2 months now and at times it’s been quite hard to believe. There is so much here that makes it easy to forget that I’m actually living in another country let alone on the other side of the world. I’m teaching in a university, so it feels like I am still a student. Transport is easy and cheap, though actually on time unlike good old Transpennine Express or Northern Rail back home. Western clothing brands such as Zara, UNIQLO and Adidas flood the main mall in the centre of town alongside Subways, Burger King, McDonalds and countless KFCs. You can even order a club sandwich and chips in the university canteen if the other options on offer don’t seem to appeal.
Of course there are also things that are quintessentially Chinese. I haven’t used a knife and fork since I got off the plane, Chinese pop music blasts out of every store (one store in particular appears to play the same song on constant repeat – Little Apple by The Chopstick Brothers if you’re interested in sampling the delights of Chinese mainstream music!), squat toilets are the norm not the exception, and rice is unavoidable no matter what meal you’re eating.
However, what might remind you of home here in China can lead you into a false sense of security, as I found out to my cost. A couple of weeks ago a load of fellow interns and myself decided to check out Playa Bar, recommended by another Western teacher at the university. We arrived and were happy to discover a quaint bar on the beachfront, which, whilst being small, had a good atmosphere and enough seating to accommodate the most westerners this town has ever seen in one place. In due time the Tsingtaos had started to flow and spirits were high.
Then Chloe, another intern teaching at the university, and I decided to order a bottle of vodka.
A reasonable price and a sense of Friday Feeling enticed us and a bottle of vodka duly arrived along with a tub of ice, a large bottle of orange juice and two glasses. However, Chinese vodka is not to be taken lightly. Sure it looks like the real deal, it even has western branding. That’s where the trap lies. It was an eventful night to say the least.
The next day I woke up on a sofa with a splitting headache and an aching body. It turned out that whilst feeling slightly worse for wear at the bar the night before I had gone for a walk along the beach to try and sober up a bit before we headed off to the club. Upon returning I was bundled into a taxi and we were all on our way to G+ Club in the city centre. When we arrived everyone else bounded into the club, keen for more drinks and some dancing. I on the other hand proceeded to spend the next hour and a half throwing up in the car park. Classy I know.
Kelly, another fellow intern, who had mercifully taken it upon herself to look after me noticed that I had blood all over my hands and head. It turned out that I had split my head open, presumably somehow during my time on the beach. I only wish I knew how! Once I was finally in a state to get back in a taxi she took me back to her flat, cleaned up my head and let me pass out on the sofa. This was where I had woken up.
With my head still looking less than pretty the others advised me to go to the local community health clinic to make sure that it didn’t need it gluing or stitches. Thankfully I needed neither as the cut was neat and not dangerously deep, though they did clean it again. They also insisted that it needed to be bandaged up to keep the area clean and allow it to heal. However, as the cut was on my head and surrounded by my hair it would have been impossible to keep it in place with tape. Instead they gave me a ridiculous piece of headwear to secure the bandage in place, which looked like the sort of thing that they keep fruit in to protect it. I don’t think I’ll be in a rush to get back on the spirits out here.