Welcome to Wenzhou - goodbye cruel world!

It's been a good while since I wrote anything substantial, in fact the last entry was sometime before I began my job at an independent school in the UK, a job that now hangs precariously in the balance. For a while I was busily contented, a physics teacher teaching in a cushy little number, getting paid to do a job I loved to bits for rich kids and getting paid good whack. More on this story later.

I pulled in to Wenzhou, a city of 7 million south of Shanghai, on the evening of the 11th of July and boy was I glad to be out of the UK. With all the trouble that's been going down back home, this trip couldn't have come at a better time.

My director of studies here has been great so far and, realising that I had just arrived after a 15 hour trip he decided to let me rest it off and find my feet here in the city before the work starts tomorrow.

So I slept pretty much the whole of the first day and found myself awake with nothing to do in a strange city the next day much to my delight and relief. So long had it been since I had free run of a new city, anonymity and the associated buzz of travel that I'd forgotten just how good that feels. The little village in Kent where I've been living these past few months was beginning to feel claustrophobic, what with the nearest town being 6 miles away and me failing my driving test on the last day before I left.

I spent a good hour on the balcony listening to Romanian pop music (O-zone to those of you in the know, and also a slice of the prolific podcasts. Cheers Cata and Charma!) just getting up the courage again to walk out of the front door, so institutionalised had I become. China is a vast beast of a country, full of yellow brothers, who I confess all look the bloody same and the thought of being surrounded by people who look the same but don't understand me brought back memories of Vietnam some years back but a bit more daunting.

After watching the citizens downstairs practising tai chi in the park for a while and the children running and skipping on the metal and concrete playground for a while, the stomach took over and I decided to take a walk to the noodle bar down the road, a place the ex-pat teachers call "the Muslim" because it's run by Chinese Muslims and has a picture of Mecca on the wall and everything. Damn good handmade noodles with beef reminded me of the only good thing about Kuwait - eating - and I remembered just why I was here.

Parting with about 50p for that slice of culinary paradise I decided to go and get lost around town, see what else was different from home. Marching straight out I walked over to Wendi Lu (the road that the school is on) and spent about 10 minutes trying to cross the bloody road. If it wasn't for years of travelling, the chaotic roads would be a shock but the Chinese all seem pretty tame compared to the Kuwaitis and Africans who really are maniacs! They drive slower here but with the usual lack of respect for red lights and road markings.

As I walked past the school and up Wendi Lu, I felt a bit of a weight lift off my shoulders, that weight of responsibility that I'm not really used to carrying and I lost myself somewhere in the Chinese experience. Through the polluted air I heard cars screeching and Chinese people yelling things at each other, then the sound of an ambulance siren cutting through the smog.

As I walked on a little further I saw a dazed looking man in the road, sitting with his butt on the kerb gazing vacantly into space. Just as I drew level with the man the ambulance pulled up and a female nurse jumped out and ran over to the man who continued to gaze vacantly into the air in front of him.

She grabbed his left arm then, saying something in Mandarin, pulled out a gauze swab patch from her bumbag and proceeded to wipe away some blood. I stopped and looked over to see what was going on and a few doors down the road the door of the cosmetics shop had opened and a couple of assistants had come to the door. Other than that we were the only audience.

When I looked a little closer I noticed a fair sized gash, not life-threatening, but not insubstantial about a third of the way up his forearm where he had slit his wrist. It was probably about 5mm deep, I guess it's what the doctors call a 'cry for help' cut. I always expected from the movies that dudes like that bled all over the place, spurting blood on all and sundry, but (as Cata knows - stand in the corner!) I'm bloody squeamish so I'm pretty glad it was a cry for help myself.

I don't think the nurse was impressed though - after she had cleared up the mess, she proceeded to just shout at the guy, a surefire way to stop him doin it again! I smirked and walked off smiling that at least it hadn't got that bad yet.

The next few days have been without event really, unless of course you call the typhoon this morning an event.

Being next to the sea, this place is pretty prone to the odd typhoon, and it's quite a relief that it cleared away most of the humidity in the air which was startin to feel way too stifling for me. Last night the wind blew and it pissed down all night. I woke up and our balcony on the top floor here (I was afraid the whole top floor would be blown off the building - if you saw the building you see my point) had been completely rearranged, the metal grille separating the two balconies blown clean off the wall and teetering over the edge, just waiting to fall off and go through a windscreen seven stories down (see what I done there Will) The balcony was flooded and so were all the streets. And for some reason my ipod packed up as well. Useless piece of shit.

Tonight we went out to the Japanese restaurant around the corner. I'm still hangin with the ex-pat crowd at the moment mainly cos my yellow brothers really think I'm one of them and it's very hard to mix without even a tiny bit of the language. I think this is going to be a real challenge of a trip to break out actually, and I've been looking to perhaps start working in Vietnam soon to try to give myself a fighting chance on that front.

I thought it was pretty brave of the Japs to open a restaurant here. On talking to the Chinese there seems to be institutionalised hatred of the Japanese government from small children upwards, due to years of invasion and oppression, and the Japanese restaurant does it's business mainly in broken Chinese and Japanese. Big up them!

The food was pretty good, though I'm getting quite into dumplings and noodles from the place around the corner (where the orphan boy that we call "Noodle Boy" works - he's great!) and so this place had a lot to live up to. They also didn't have a toilet, which was a shame because I'd finally been able to recall my first full sentence in Chinese "Where is the toilet?" only for them to point at the sink in the corner, which was situated in the window to the street. I decided to hold it.

Work starts tomorrow, and the thoughts are flowing thick and fast. Watch this space?
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