The last time you heard from me (was a while ago now) I told you about Beijing Wave’s inaugural event “This Is Not Consent”, an event using the topical issue of consent and sexual assault as a means of education. On Monday the 24th we’ll be hosting our second event – a screening of the documentary short ‘Period. End of Sentence.’, which we’re very excited about.
I’m sat with two tabs open on my laptop right now, one is for writing and the other is to check my previous posts to see what I’ve already written. Turns out I’ve done A LOT since returning from England and Vienna. To make this easier for both of us I’m going to title the adventures I’ve had and write a little (it won’t be little) something about them.
April was welcomed warmly with a 3-day holiday spent in Datong, China. I was accompanied by a wonderful human named Hannah, she insisted we get out of Beijing for once and take a breather. Hannah and I have a lot in common – she’s a fellow theatre grad, a Leo, and we share the same sense in fashion. The city of Datong is trying incredibly hard to look like Beijing, in the centre of the city you’ll find this huge rectangular wall (on which you can walk or cycle) that looks a lot like the Forbidden City. The section inside of the wall reminded me of a post-apocalyptic town with its bordered up restaurants and demolished buildings. From what Hannah told me the Mayor was just like ‘fuck it, let’s build a wall’ and unfortunately most people living inside of that area had to be turfed out.
On our first day we visited the fuck off huge Buddhas sitting all snug in huge fucking caves. It is kind of insane that Monks went through the effort of hacking into walls to carve out thousands of Buddhas. There are about 200 caves with 48 of them open to the public and, I’m pretty sure the Buddha count would be well into it’s thousands.
The Hanging Monastery was on our itinerary for the second day. We’d started the day late (as teachers this break meant we had a lot of sleep to catch up on), so we decided to grab a taxi for the 2/3 hour ride. This was all a bit of a kafuffle – we had hopped into one taxi to be taken 12 minutes down the road to a taxi bay, where we were told to change taxis. We negotiated a drive and wait for us kind of job for, what we felt was a decent price, which was handy. None of the crowded hot bus bullshit.
The Hanging Monastery itself is a temple built onto the cliff face with thick wooden poles to hold it up. Looking up from the 2-hour queue (by means the taxi driver was not satisfied, he expected us there and back within 2 hours) was pretty fucking impressive. The closer we got to the Monastery more of the details came into vision, like the chipped away burgundy paint and the rickety floorboard that took you, very narrowly, along the building.
As expected there was a huge influx of visitors at this landmark, 99% of them being Chinese and well, we know EXACTLY what some of them can be like as tourists. The province that we were in is pretty far from Beijing and I assume not many foreigners are knocking about the cities. We got a hell of a lot of looks (also because we looked bomb as fuck) and had many people approach Hannah and I to ask us for photos. It was lovely to see that people here actually asked permission for your picture rather than shoving a camera in your face on a Beijing subway. Now, as you can imagine the Buddhist who built this temple didn’t have much concern for safety as he wandered around his home, why would he? It’s only him up there. The barriers in between you and the huge fucking drop are very low and your being cautious with your feet as you eb and flow between the levels like cattle. There we a couple of dickhead he felt selfish enough to push and shove their way around. Wankers.
We took to the Datong City Wall on our final day, hoping to find a couple of bikes to cycle around the perimeter. What we were met with was even better. Our eyes lit up and both of our minds were in sync… “YES WE ARE FUCKING RIDING AROUND ON A 4 WHEELED BICYCLE LIKE THE CHUCKLE BROTHERS!” We had a fucking blast.
Hannah is a great and wise person to travel with.
2. Spencer’s Birthday
Spencer and I mark our official friendiversary around the time of her birthday, the 30th of April. Well, it’s the date that sticks out in my mind where I thought “Awh we’re friends now!” This year she turned 25 and she absolutely rinsed the birthday celebrations. Spencer’s cousin, Allie, and her fiancé, Miguel were in Beijing for the week which mean Spencer was in full tour guide mode. Rather than dragging us all to a restaurant for food and drinks, Spencer had arranged a dumpling making party at a gorgeous venue called The Orchid, for her birthday. Dumplings are traditionally made with pork but thankfully for Anisa, who is Muslim, and myself we were given a veggie mix to make our dumplings with. Dumpling dough should be rolled out into a palm sized circle, filled and then folded into its classic shape. You can take the girl out of the south west but, you can’t take the south west out of the girl… my dumplings resembled several tiny Cornish pasties. Our handcrafted dumplings were then fried or steamed and presented to us with a couple other dishes, all gulped down with the bottomless wine.
The Tuesday of Spencer’s actual birthday was revolutionary. She proposed the idea of going to hot pot, but apparently this wasn’t just any hot pot, it was Haidilao hot pot. I’d never been to a Haidilao hot pot before, so any mention of its name I was like ‘Yeah cool hot pot’, until Anisa (at the dumpling class) was like “YOU HAVE NEVER HAD HAIDILAO? WHAT?” and then I knew I was in for a treat. Haidilao is a huge chain hot pot – we often hear the word ‘chain’ at home and think mediocre food but NOT in China – where the service is absolutely impeccable. Upon arrival you are seated in the waiting area (the queues are always long af) and are given these snacks that really remind me of the Walkers mixed up bags, but it’s not, it’s even better. Watermelon is also provided, and… AND you can get your nails done FOR FREE.
The impeccable service doesn’t end there, oh no, they will give you anything you need. Are you worried about hot pot soup getting all over your clothes? Don’t fret, they’ll give you an apron. Will your long hair get in your food? It’s okay, they’ll give you a hairband. Is your phone running out of battery? Calm down, they’ll bring you a charger. Do you REALLY want hot pot but no one is keen to go with you? Just go, they’ll bring you a big teddy to keep you company. I’m pretty tempted to go and test the solo theory out.
We ordered a fair few dishes with there being 8 of us – 3 types of tofu, meat, duck blood, veggies and noodles. Let’s just talk about the noodles for a second, so they’re super fresh and hand-pulled meaning they’re fucking incredible BUT that’s not it… there’s a noodle guy who comes to your table and flings the noodles in all kinds of directions, twirling and flinging it around. It’s amazing. As is everything else about Haidilao.
The beginning of June welcomed another 3 day public holiday, Dragon Boat Festival. A holiday that remembers the death of a famous Chinese poet, who drowned himself in a river by tying rocks to his feet, and the people raced to find his body on dragon boats. We celebrated the holiday in a fuck off huge homestay with the beach, beers and good fucking food.
I didn’t know how much I needed that weekend away until it was over. For so long Spencer has been my only go to friend to hang out with, but recently she kinda dragged me by the feet to meet her friends she knew from EF. I’ve been an introverted mess when socialising in big groups recently, because I can’t seem to engage myself in a conversation when there are several happening around me. I often feel out of place and just fall into deafening silence, I DON’T KNOW WHY. At first I was incredibly nervous at the thought of a weekend away with 11 other people who I wasn’t super close to but I was being an idiot because they’re some of the best people I’ve met in China. I literally couldn’t be more thankful that Anisa invited me, as lame and pathetic as that sounds.
There were 12 of us, like I said, and trying to organise 12 people is always going to be a fucking ball ache. Beidaihe is about 3 hours north of Beijing and the original plan was to hop on a train Thursday evening after work, however, Joy a wonderful Chinese gal and Cameron, lovely American guy offered to drive us. ROAD TRIP. Spencer, Seffy and I were the last ones on the pick-up route and our expected time of departure was 7:30 – Seffy had just landed back in Beijing that day too, and rushed down to Shuangjing. How naive we were to think we’d be leaving on time… WE LEFT AT 11PM. EL-E-VEN P-M. By the time we arrived at the Air Bnb it was about 3am. We were all fucking shattered, especially Seffy, bless her.
We were all lagging like fuck the next day, only four of us managed to get up at a reasonable time and went out to get coffee, fruit and water. Seffy and Spencer cooked up some banging pancakes on the first morning with bacon, chocolate or maple syrup to choose as the weapon of destruction. It only hit noon before Robbie, Will and Tom decided to crack open a beverage which kind of gives you an idea as to what our hydration method was for the weekend. We went through a hell of a lot of beer. The day (in fact the whole weekend) continued unfold at a slow plodding pace and it was 3pm for everyone got their shit together and left for the beach.
I’ve mentioned it before, and it’s a thought that really kicks me in the gut, but FUCK, I took living by the sea for granted. It’s just so fucking beautiful man. Robbie lives in Brighton, so he is also a sea baby. At one point he turned to me and said “Can you feel that you’re by the sea? Because I can, I just know.” and damn, he awoke a hidden superpower in me. I could. I really could feel the sea before I’d even seen it. As soon as the sea crept into my eyesight I felt so calm and peaceful, it’s so fucking bliss.
We chilled on the beach, playing frisbee, drinking beer and paddling in the water, until the sun started to descend and we headed for food.
Piccolo was our drinking game of choice for the weekend, and man, did it FUCK ME OVER. So it’s basically a truth and dare app, you enter everyone’s names and it randomly generates names into dares. During the entire weekend there was “____ should find ____ nipples or drink 3 sips’’, “Would you rather have a 3some or a 15some?”, “How many people have you slept with? The one with the highest dishes out that number of sips”, “_____ should take _____ from behind in doggy.” It got fucking wild, and it definitely had some incline that there was a single guy in the room as well as me.
Anisa, Robbie and Will were all raised in England and boy, did I feel right at home on that trip with them. There’s just something different about British banter that no other country really gets. It can be slapstick and vulgar, childish and fucked up, but you don’t realise it’s its own type of humour until you’ve gone away and rediscovered people on your level. Robbie walks through life with a classic clown song as his theme tune, a beer in hand and shite shirts and I can’t help but find everything he does fucking hilarious. According to Anisa, Robbie and I are the same person… terrible dancing, awful humour and dumb questions. Unsure whether I should be offended or feel good about it.
The next day was another late start, the boys had gone out to get beer with Joy and took FOREVER and day to get back. Everyone was dying to get to the beach and with the delayed start to the day tensions ran high when we left later than we wanted. We chose to go to a different beach on the second day, one that stretched for miles (much like Woolacombe). With our flips flops on feet, sunglasses over our eyes and beers in our hands we approached the beach only to be stopped by the guard. He told us that we weren’t allowed alcohol on the beach… what kind of boring bunch of fuckers don’t allow beers on the beach? That’s the whole fucking point. We were fucked. We stood around like lemons trying to figure out what to do and then wandered off trying to figure out if there was another beach to get to. With the late start and faffing around with beers everyone got pretty huffy, especially Spencer who stormed off with the beach and no beers as her destination. We decided to hide all the beers and head back to the same place, we set up our blanket and headed straight for the water where the waves were lifting us off of our feet and plunging our heads under.
Sitting on the beach with the sand in between my toes, and the sea crashing on the shore had me thinking about travelling and HOLY FUCK am I excited to get out of China. I am a little sad though, that weekend was full of belly-aching laughter and amazing people that the thought of leaving in November after FINALLY finding a group I get on with sucks. After that weekend I realised that one of my biggest issues is the crippling fear of social group and saying no to things.
I need to work on throwing myself into situations with new people, especially as I am going travelling in 4 months.