Wednesday, June 27, 2007

So thats it!

I think we'll all up to date. I'm currently at home working for McDonalds before starting work in September and going through with the purchase of a house in Leeds. So exciting times lie ahead - although probably not exciting work ; either at McDonalds or Eversheds.

China was a fantastic experience. When I first got home and everything happend with Clare I was tempted to jump on the first plane back out again. Although I would no longer have a job in the school I would get the chance to be with all my friends again and continue the "journey". I'm glad I didn't as I think I need to face up to things at home in order to be able to move on properly.

China, and the people I met there, will always hold a special place in my heart and I know that I would not have rather spent those 6 months doing anything else.

Thanks to everyone that made it possible.

Like the Buses...

Prompted by the fact that Dave has already done his retrospective post I thought I'd better get round to doing mine - It's nearly been 4 months since I've came home for Christ sake!

Looking back now on the time I spent in China I think it is something I will treasure and remember for the rest of my life. The friends I made of different nationalities, the cultures I experienced and the food I ate are things that I never ever would have done unless this amazing opportunity had arisen. Whilst Dave and I felt a little bitter towards Phil Thomas of Cardiff University for his lack of actual support during our time out in China, I bet he is just as thankful as I am that we did happen to receive that email from him last march that set the wheels in motion.

A few major things have changed in my life since returning home and, whilst not entirely an acceptable excuse, these are part of the reasons for not posting on here.

Firstly and most prominently, I am now, after the best part of six and a half years, single. This was something I found hard to come to terms with. To go from spending nearly a third of your adult life with someone to not having him or her in your life at all is a massive change. But these things happen for the best in the long run. The actual shock of the break up would have been much, much worse had I not just spent 6 months without Clare in China. People ask “do you regret going” and “do you think you would still be together if you hadn’t have gone” and the answers I’ve given have changed from being “I don’t know” to just “no”. Times when I’ve felt down I’ve looked back at the photos of the last 6 months and reminisced on some of the great times I had with all my friends out there and suddenly felt much better.

Finding a job before starting work proper in September and also buying a house have been things that have also taken up inordinate amounts of time. And of course my football team Blackpool FC is something that has kept me distracted as I have followed their promotion to the Championship for the first time in 29 years.

Whilst I apologise for the delay in posting I am actually quite enjoying sitting down and thinking it all through again. I have not yet printed my photographs out – this is something I’m saving till the memories fade a little and then hopefully they will once again be re-ignited.

New Places and more imporantly New People

The People I met were all fantastic!

The No.42 Crew – as we liked to be called were awesome. As Dave says in his blog there were times when we fell out and didn’t get on, but this was always going to be the case when forced to socialize with exactly the same people day in day out in such an extreme new culture. There were times when we all went out of our ways to avoid seeing one another and at other times we all made the extra special effort to try and make things work as well – and they are the times I will choose to remember. Brock, Becky and Meredith are all people I will always consider to be great friends of mine.

But I must not forget the people from outside of the No.42 Clique. Hilary cooked me many a fine meal, Zach held some of the best apartment parties I have ever had the pleasure to attend, Anthony often saved me from the title of “most drunk” on a night out and introduced me to many a beautiful Chinese lady and Kavitha often put up with my drunken rambling and gave me rides on her bike! Then there was Mike and Gaz who we met in Beijing in October and then came to stay with us in December for one of the most booze filled weeks we had in China – superb fun with two superb lads.

The Chinese friends I made also had a great impact on my experience. If it hadn’t have been for Nancy I never would have been able to travel anywhere during my month off. She really helped me get to grips with the ludicrous Chinese travel systems and organised everything so well for me. But more than that she was a tremendous friend to me and one I still keep in touch with now. I met ZoĆ« during a drunken night in the net bar and became good friends. She helped me learn some Chinese and also “forced” me to buy the ridiculous orange glasses that I still sport to this day. Of course there were so many others that helped throughout the time I was there but this post will be hideously long as it is so I’ll just say a big Thanks to everyone.

Dave and I were good friends from College before hand and when we made the decision to go to China independently of each I think it made us even closer. When I first got home it wasn’t so much China I missed, it was his company and I must say a massive thank you to him for helping me through so much whilst I was out there.

Meeting people is all part of the “travelling” experience I guess and for so many I expect it’s a case of here today, gone tomorrow. I feel lucky that so many of the people I met are, I hope, friends for life.

The Experience

I really enjoyed teaching. The children were fantastic, who despite being immensely busy still put everything into the lessons. I think I will always remember shedding a tear as I locked up my classroom for the final time.

At times Dave and I got frustrated by the lack of things we could actually do for the children. We had grand plans for lessons that just could not be achieved with the facilities that were in place. A slide and video tour around England for example turned into us holding our laptops above our heads for an hour whilst 40 kids squinted to see the screen- but they still loved it! However once we figured out the school really saw us as no more than a marketing ploy for the school things started to fall into place a bit more.

As far as China goes I would love to go back. It was always going to be impossible to see all of the country – especially as I was leaving early. I only really got to travel around Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu and their surrounding cities. I would love to go further down south to see Guangzhou and Hong Kong in particular. Whilst I wouldn’t say that I love China I have found myself defending it to all and sundry when it comes up in conversation so it must have touched a part of me.

The parts of the trip I remember the most fondly are the first trip to the Great Wall that we did in October – a 10km walk in sweltering heat with a great group of people for company. Going to Xi’an to see the Terra Cotta Warriors was fantastic, knowing that you are some of the first people to see something that has only been discovered for 27 years is incredible and now that there is such a fuss being made over a few being brought to England for an exhibition it makes me much happier to say I have seen the entire collection. When Dave and I visited The Forbidden City for the first time I was amazed by how serene it was. We’d been to Beijing on 4 occasions before hand would always have described it as noisy, yet stood in the centre of the city in this amazing place you could literally hear the smallest birds singing. Climbing Emei Shan and staying in a Monastery at 1600Km (about half way up) was superb and despite things being a little tense between Clare and I at the time I think we made the most of the experience.

Whilst I know we all wish that we had had more opportunities to travel whilst we lived in Shijiazhuang I think we all made the best of the time we had. Teaching made it hard for us to get away as much as we would have liked but we still managed plenty of trips out at the weekend really – saving the longer journeys for our holidays.