Day one began with the unwelcome sound of my alarm. It was 09.30 but my body was confused from the flying and sickness and rebelled against my urging to get it into the shower. After emerging from my bed I enjoyed a shower in my super futuristic shower that squirted me from all directions and sang to me! This cheered me up no end!
After this I used my cut throat razor (gift from Megan) for the first time and found it easier than I expected. Then I was picked up by Hamlin and taken on a tour of the University and surrounding area. The area around the University is not as nice as the University itself and the poverty of China seems to seep from every store front and street corner.
Much of the streets are dug up and for repairs that never happened, I saw one woman filling in a pothole outside here noodle bar with the dirt from the side of the road. But It is not a sad place, the people all seem happy and industrious, always hurrying too their destinations but offering a smile to the stranger in their midst.
Our first point of call was a Wal-Mart, thats right, ASDA! There like herpes they crop up everywhere. The Wal-Mart of China is however very different from those of the UK and America. For example the fish really are fresh. They are swimming. Also next to the fish you can buy live turtles and terrapins, I suspect for food rather than for pets.
Also the meat is not packaged but simply sitting in bins of ice slowly thawing in the strip lighting, as a westerner it seems very unhygienic but I'm trying not to judge, different culture different rules!
Stop two was the mobile store. Chaos does not describe this place. In mobile phones are heavily regulated, to buy one you must present ID and go through all the formalities of signing a contract. Unfortunately I could not get a sim to fit my iPhone and because of the nature of Chinese Mobile I could not easily get a SIM to cut down. As a result I now have a cheap nokia Which cost 220 RMB (about £20) which is my chinese phone.
From here we went to lunch where as members of the university faculty we were shown to the VIP area where we dined on a colossal amount of food in a private room, complete with own TV and air conditioner. I also met another Foreign Teacher Donald and a native philosophy teacher Kate (though I suspect this is simply a name she has chosen for convienience when dealing with Westerners) who were both charming and excellent company.
The food was absolutely incredible so to all of you who told me it would be awful I blow a very generous raspberry!
After the meal we were accosted in the street by a beggar dragging a monkey on a piece of string. Those of you who know me know that I have a massive issue with the mistreatment of animals but I said and did nothing.
I had decided before I came here that the treatment of animals in China would upset me and that I would have to learn to bite my tongue and say nothing. And I did. And I feel bad about it. There is something about monkeys that is so utterly human it is difficult to regard them as animals. The cramped fish in Wal-mart were bad, but fish are fish, even the cute terrapins stacked like spoons in an inch of dirty water were easy to shake off, they would after all be eaten soon enough.
But this monkey, with its bright, black, sad eyes was doomed to dragged by a beggar hawking for change. It was an instance where without a doubt the beast was nobler than the man.
Sorry to end on a glum note but I think I'm doing a good job of describing what I see and how I feel. China is a wonderful place so far, but it is strange and will require some getting used to.