A short, but daily test

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Asia » China » Guizhou » Guiyang
February 19th 2009
Published: February 19th 2009
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Much is said about the ‘assault on your senses’ - that way so many have chosen to describe Asia. I’ve been here in China for a year now, living and working, and to say it’s an assault is to do it an injustice - it’s an inescapable barrage!

My alarm clock goes off at 7:30am. That’s not so bad, and after a shower I feel liberated and ready to conquer the world. I grab my necessities for the day, not forgetting the necessary sound insulation (the iPod) and step outside into the big wide world.

I feel the rays of sun on my face, wow that feels good - it hasn’t been sunny here for a while! If I made heaven the sun would be my elixir - the bringer of happiness into my life, it never fails to raise my spirits. Today the sun delivers that warmth I’ve been longing for over the last 2 months and casts shadows across the monotony of white tiled buildings in a way that almost makes them look pleasant.

Down the hill and the view widens. Quite an impressive skyline has Guiyang! It’s certainly a lot different to the skyline of my home town in the UK, and although I’m not always convinced in a good way, today the light makes it pleasing to the eye.

By now I’m a full fifty metres from the house and almost to my daily first port of call, the shop. I see a car coming along the road and begin to move to one side - ‘don’t’ I say inside my head - but as he nears he just can’t help it. It’s not his fault, I say to myself again (and damn I need to stop talking to myself), but on this beautiful morning the anger quickly recedes because on this occasion my sound protection worked for the most part.

As I leave the shop, loaded with all the bing hong cha (iced tea) I need for the day, I choose to walk on the road as experience has told me the pavement is just too slippery to walk on - all the oil spilled cooking last night’s local delicacies.

Waiting at the traffic lights, the green man appears. Wouldn’t read too much into that mind, it only means the traffic has stopped from one of three directions, but I’ve been here for a while now and race across the street without issue at a speed the locals merely look at in bemusement. Why does the waiguoren walk so fast? What’s the hurry? Bloc Party continues to cancel out the cacophony outside noise, albeit with a noise of my own choosing.

Past the ‘iffy goods corner’, the same guys setting up their stalls and blocking the pavement as normal, again I choose to walk on the road. Not because its slippery this time, but because there are too many stairs and curbs to go up and down, and there’s always the unquantifiable risk of being poked in the head by a protruding piece of metal from the shops along the right hand side - if you’re not on guard that is.

Right in the full glare of the sun now, this February Guiyang morning feels vaguely similar to an English summer morning and the thought warms my soul and brings a gentle smile to my face. It’s time to cross the road again now. There are zebra lines painted on the road, though they may as well have saved the paint. Luck must be on my side today though; I didn’t even have to check my stride! Five hundred metres from home and flak-jacket still intact!

What am I going to teach my students today I wonder, and why does that guy always have to start welding in the road as I walk past. What vendetta does he have against my eyes? I came to China to gain life experiences, but ‘arc eye’ isn’t an experience I was particularly hoping for.

Reliably, the army of ‘bei dou’ have amassed on the corner half way to school, looking for whatever low paid work someone will offer them for the day. The same guy as always shouts ‘hello’ to me as I pass, and I shout ‘hello’ back. I should stop and talk to him one day.

This junction always kills me - good mood instantly dampened as a piece of sh*t driver just can’t refuse the urges of his disease and has to bang his turbocharged car horn down my ear from one metre away. Bloc Party wasn’t powerful enough to cancel that one out.

I resist the instant urge to pull him out of the car and knock his front teeth down his throat, and instead just concentrate on the sun. It’s not his fault he was born into this life. Damn, I’ve got to leave here before I earn myself that infamous position against a white wall in Qinghai province wearing a black blindfold!

Rounding the corner, the park nears. Again I walk the road because whoever decided on the choice of path slabs clearly wasn’t told Guiyang is the wettest city in China. Doesn’t stop the locals from trying though! Betty and Edna (as I’ve named them) perform their daily dance routine on the edge of the park where it seems its only principle is to be less strenuous than walking. I admire their commitment though - rain or shine! I think they are most likely deaf. Their stereo, they have turned up so loud it’s distorted into a noise which I can only imagine is similar to a playschool class let loose in an orchestra. It brings a board smile to my face every day without fail!

Midpoint crossing the road, it’s a good job I’m aware because that driver wasn’t stopping for love nor money. I enter my least favourite street of the trip, and for a brief moment I again know and understand what it was like to live during the industrial revolution. A woman selling deep fried breakfast food guards the entrance to the street, flanked on the right by a spitting man. Let’s just pretend I didn’t see that. Behind, on the street, lies the slime and grime of the previous night’s creation and it’s greasy to walk on.

My nose is being assaulted and my good mood is momentarily faltering; although I’m convinced I’ve become relatively immune since first arrival in the city. As the shops along the street begin to open they throw water out onto the stinking road. I’m wondering yet again why they do that. Surely that’s half the cause of the smell?

Car sighted at 12 o’clock on the single lane sewage alley - approach speed, slow. Despite me almost immediately making an evasive manoeuvre and walking swiftly out the way, all the time in direct eye contact with him, he just can’t help it. A Bloc Party guitar solo easily drowns that one out though, his horn must be broken. I take solace from the fact his friends must laugh at him and his impotence.

School in sight, it’s going to be a beautiful day by the looks of it. I bound up the stairs. I’ve got some good ideas for what to teach my students today. Nearing the entrance door a student sees me approaching. Why does she just let the door close in my face? Is it really that difficult to hold the door open for someone?

Mood again faltering, but I know it wasn’t personal - today I’m strong and I’ll not let it beat me. No - today is going to be a good day; I’ve successfully ignored what I can see, muted what I can hear, and become a little bit more immune to what I can smell - suppression of senses successful!

Hang on………….. Something’s gone wrong here! That’s not why I started travelling…………………..


19th February 2009

let's just say you chose to live in the capital of China's poorest province...I give your credit for that. China is huge and always changing. Sci-fi style structures and poverty co-exist.(even we have some rundown communities in NYC, LA and Detroit, don't we?).... Do yourself a favor, travel to other parts of China and see more of the country. The key of living happily in China is to keep an open mind. Good luck.

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