Another week in China, another week of challenges.
Almost immediately after I concluded the previous week I took a stroll out into Tian He, Guangzhou and passed the football stadium, which is actually situated amongst numerous skyscrapers around central Guangzhou. I knew that it was the opening day of the new football seasons and Guangzhou were playing their first game back in the top division after being relegated for match fixing the previous year. This meant the whole town was buzzing and thousands of people were wearing the Guangzhou colours, red. Slightly curious, and intrigued as to whether I would be offered a free ticket if I stood around long enough, I approached the stadium. As I did a couple of women dressed in football kits ran towards me with paint brushes whilst being followed by the GDTV camera crew. Without my consent, but with little resistance, the began to draw several chinese characters on my arms whilst the TV crew filmed my reaction…I assume it went out live as it was close to kick off and guessed they wanted to show the world that a Westerner supports Guangzhou.
Despite being covered in paint I quite enjoyed the attention and carried on walking proudly around the stadium with my arms outstretched. I was then approached by a group of young lads (this is not as intimidating in China as it is in England). After a brief conversation one of them told me that one of their friends had not turned up and that they had a spare ticket. Although I was interested I was on a tight budget and the £10 ticket would have taken half of it. I politely declined but in hindsight I fear that he may have been offering the ticket for free…I’ll never know.
This was my last day in Guangzhou as I would be starting my new job in Foshan the following day. To sign off I spent the night on Iains couch as he has cable TV so we could stay in and watch the Arsenal game….which I slept through and apparently didn’t miss much.
The next day I woke up at 6 for my long trip to the Foshan by bus and metro. I arrived and was immediately thrust into a series of classes which I had made no preparation for…thankfully I blagged it.
Having not managed to sort out accommodation last week I had one last resort…couch surfing. This is a website where people offer beds for free for a couple of nights to travellers…catch free. All I had to do was contact one and take the risk. fortunately for me one women replied almost immediately and said that I could stay at hers for a few nights. Her profile told me she is a 45-year-old woman named Danny from the north of China…which seemed safe enough.
Whilst I was at work she had sent me directions to her house and it didn’t seem to far away from my work. It took me about half an hour to find it and she met me with her daughter outside; obviously it is as risky for her to let a stranger into her house as it is for me to stay with one. Once inside she was incredibly hospitable and even made me dinner (I was starving!). She gave me a private bedroom and allowed me to sleep when I pleased. I was quite happy with this temporary residence.
So the working week had begun. I went to work on the monday despite most of China celebrating a public holiday where they sweep the tombs of their dead ancestors (we had the Tuesday off to do this). It soon came to my attention that my new job is far less demanding than my previous one. On the monday I spent 8 hours at work, and performed no lessons. This may sound dreamy to most, but I really need to be doing something…hopefully it will pick up.
On the Tuesday I met with Benny for the first time as he wanted to show me some apartments in Foshan to rent. We saw several different places that looked comfortable enough and relatively cheap (the most expensive being £130 a month). However, given that I only have £20 left and that most landlords want 2 months deposit before I move in I decided against moving in to any just yet, perhaps I could find another couch surfers couch?
But, as things generally seem to, everything appeared to fall into place. When I returned to Dannys I noticed that she had converted the private bedroom into ‘Todd’s Room’ equipped with desk, wardrobe, internet connection, bedding and clothes hanger. She told me that I could stay with her as long as I wanted and she would not expect any rent, I can use her washing machine, shower, fridge and water whenever I want. Selfless people exist? She also told me that she will be going to Thailand for 20 days in a couple of weeks and that I could house sit for her. She then gave me some keys to the apartment. Even if I wanted to leave now it would be impolite to do so.
So I am currently a resident in Danny’s house and am providing her daughter with daily english lessons to help her in her quest to become an air stewardess, which she is studying at university for. Her geography is on a par with Chloe so teaching place names in English is a struggle. This makes me feel a little better about staying in her house for free.
Work, although slightly tedious, is preventing me from spending money so can only be good for me. I did, however, have thursday off so I returned to the old school for dinner. I decided to challenge myself by avoiding the metro to ge there. This meant travelling to Guangzhou by public bus (but it would cost my 60p as oppose to 90p by metro…every little helps). I had to change bus 3 times at the right stops and it took me 2 and a half hours to get there. I have since concluded that the metro is quicker and easier and worth 30p. It was a pleasant evening which meant I got a free meal in the school and then a cheeky beer with Iain. I then made my long way back to Foshan vowing that regular trips to Guangzhou are probably not necessary.
Whats more, the package that I sent Patty, and spent so much time over, arrived at hers this week. For my first week in China we rarely talked but this week we have managed to find a way to talk regularly, and it has made life a lot easier to know I can talk to her as I can talk to her about the challenges I am facing in the knowledge that she knows what I am talking about. Anyway, when the package arrived she went onto skype and showed it to me on webcam. I was overwhelmed by her reaction and it came as a relief that she got it, it was kinda special. Happiness.
So another day of work on friday where it was a bit more productive and now I find myself at my desk on a saturday afternoon. I have one more class before Danny is taking me out for Japanese tonight. I hope it’s on her…but of course I don’t expect.
Overall I have made this week sound quite trivial but it has been incredibly hard. I have had to try to be independent without being lonely, I have had to live in a strangers house whilst avoiding stepping on eggshells, and I have had to start a new job in a new location with limited funds. This has all been quite challenging…but this is what I live for…I left England because it was too easy…I am testing myself.
However, what has made this week a lot easier than it could have, or even should have, been is the people around me. If ever people lose faith in humanity they should live the week I have just had. I have been accepted into a stranger’s home with access to all their food, water and electricity. Not only that but I have been offered financial support from special people in Mexico, New Zealand, England and China; quite literally the four corners of the world. People are good! I will struggle through this month though but that makes it all the more exciting. Knowing that people are there for me makes the whole process a lot easier. Thankyou humans! Despite that, payday couldn’t come soon enough.