China II: Week 12

This week felt like the beginning of the end of all the hard work. The last 3 months have been much more difficult than I anticipated when I first arrived from spending 6 weeks with no money to working 7 day, 50 hour weeks. However, this was the last week of my main job in Foshan, and it is such a relief to see the back of it.

What is more, since my hours were reduced a couple of weeks ago I have become a bit of a socialite, which is not helpful for the finances. I have actually made some very good friends in Foshan and spend many of my evenings with them, particularly Cameron. I have made a conscious effort to knuckle down for a few months in order to raise the necessary funds for a couple of months of travel. But, I have also realised that Human Beings are very social creatures and as soon as I started hearing whispers of voices in my head I decided I would prefer to spend my evenings having a few beers at Peasants or playing football instead of moping about twiddling my thumbs. Again this has helped by the fact I no longer work til 9pm 5 days a week (only twice this week….woopwoop).

However, on the Monday evening I went for a meal with Momo and Danny. It turned out to be my last meal with Momo as her Grandmother fell ill in the north of China and she caught a plane there the next day. I think Danny was slightly upset by this as it meant Momo was not there for her birthday. In fact, I felt this put more pressure on me as I was to be the only one in the apartment for Danny’s birthday. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. But, as both a birthday present and a gesture of thanks I printed off a picture of the two of us and had it framed. She liked this very much, and reinforced the idea in her head that I actually am her son.

In fact, I was a little worried on the Thursday as I had made plans to meet Emily after work but I was a little concerned that Danny would be alone on her birthday. But, soon after I finished work I got a phone call from my very excited ‘second Chinese Mother’ (after Angel). She told me she was in Guangzhou with her friends and wanted to know somewhere she can have a beer. This may not seem out of the ordinary for someones birthday but Danny has told me on numerous occasions that she neither drinks or agrees with drinking beer. I suppose once a year doesn’t hurt and she seemed happy enough. With my conscience free I met up with Emily after work for some dinner and a cheeky beer in Family Mart. I was also fully aware that both Cameron and Kiran had expected me to meet them later in the night in Foshan. So the evening promised to be very busy, and didn’t disappoint.

After a beer or two with Emily I left her to head back on the metro to Foshan. I think she was a little disappointed that I left to meet other people but like I said….I’m a socialite :P. Thankfully I arrived in Foshan not long after our scheduled meeting time to find Lazy Mamas full of Westerners, and Roger. Of course there are many that I try to steer clear of because they aren’t my cup of tea (many of these happen to be Americans here), so I sat with Kiran, Roger,Cameron and a few Brits. After a short time we all came to the conclusion that Lazy Mamas was both too busy and too expensive (£2.50 a pint in China is exploitation). Instead we got news of one of the Chinese girls performing with her band in a bar not too far away so we headed there with some of the others. As first the bar seemed like a pleasant relief to what had already been a long day, but then it was pointed out that there was an arcade containing Bumper Cars next door. Myself, Kiran, Ali, Danny and Cameron could not resist and went immediately. I have never thought of Bumper Cars to be the most thrilling or dangerous of fair ground rides, but then I have never used or associated them with China. We paid our fee and sat in our cars only for a free-for-all to begin. Unlike in England where there are rules and regulations, here there were none. Can I really use Bumper Cars as a microcosm for the differences between England and China? Anyway, we were hitting each other at the speed of light and everyone was struggling to stay in their cars, sparks were flying out from beneath everyone’s car and out bodies were being thrown all over the place….and noone was even watching for out safety. It is fair to say that it was madness, and we were all lucky to come out of the first one alive…but still went back for more (it perhaps had something to do with the beer…yes, it would have been a death risk even if we were sober). The next time we decided to team up, reds vs blues. The element or rivalry and team solidarity seemed to make everyone mental. We began to crunch into each other at even greater speeds, so much so that the sparks increased and the shells of the cars began to crack (or so we thought). We all knew we were not going to get out unscathed but at that point we didn’t care. It was only later that we realised our knees were blue with bruises, as were my hips. However, Cameron had the worst injury….whiplash. For some strange reason he had chosen to wear his seatbelt and this meant he came out of the car with a huge burn across his neck that looked like a few love bites (his girlfriend will find it hard to believe a bumper car gave them to him). Anyway, that’s enough about Bumper cars…it was fun and I am a child.

Little did I know that this was to be the beginning of a few long and sleepless days. The next day I had work in the afternoon but followed it with a great gae of football. Roger gave me directions to the pitch which turned out to be in the middle of a sanitary wear industrial estate. I walked through the estate in the pitch black looking for the building containing the pitch, it was quite eerie. The pitch was on the second floor of a warehouse and it felt as though I was in one of the Nike adverts. I am really enjoying playing football at the moment and it is really good for my fitness (although people continue to comment on my new gaunt face and have even stretched to describing me as ‘scrawny’). We played for 2.5 hours and were all able to wring out our shirts at the end of the game. The temperature remains in the mid 20s over night and playing football with no air conditioning makes you produce sweat by just being alive. I have also managed to re-invent myself as a Alex Song-esqe player…a role I am enjoying :p.

Then came the Saturday. After work I met up with Danny and Cameron for a few hours only to be met by a few more friends later in the night. Despite my early start for work they all insisted that I joined them in Grammys…a club near by. I have definitely tried to steer clear of clubs in China. I could not believe how we were treated when we walked in. There were perhaps 15 of us and we were immediately given a table in a very busy club and handed a free bottle of vodka and watermelon. Within a couple of minutes of being there I had a chinese girl offer me her number and I began to believe I may actually be a premier league footballer and I had just not realised. Despite the early novelty the club wasnt great and I left in the early hours to get a couple of hours sleep before my last day at Sunshine Elite.

The last day at the training school! What a relief! I had 8 hours to kill before I would have every weekend free until I return home in September…even writing about it now brings a smile to my face. I made it through the day by concentrating less on the teaching and more on games (which the children enjoy more anyway), I rewarded myself, Carol and the children with a snippet of Kung Fu Panda at the end of each class. The school had not informed the parents or the children that I would be leaving so they will be in a shock next week. However the only people who I will really miss is Kiran and my assistant, Carol. In fact, Carol has been a great friend and help to me here and I really want to stay in touch with her.

After work I once again met with a few people for a game of football against a well organised chinese team kitted out in Arsenal shirts. My team consisted of a Jordanian, a Lebanese, two Englishman, a South African and a Chineseman…culture. Once again we played for another 2 and a half hours (longer than I slept the previous night) and I love it. It is only now that I have got home and realised how tired I am and how blistered my feet are. In fact, my feet look as though I have spent my life on the streets…it’s all worth it though.

So in summary, I have exchanged long working our with long social hours for one week. Perhaps it was necessary and the beginning of the end of all the hard work I can’t help but feel a sense of achievement as I approach the finishing line.

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