The picture you see was on the text on the back of my entry application form. Apparently, any foreign citizen in China is considered an Alien.
Today was a long day. It took 3 planes and a taxi to arrive at the kung fu school. It started with an early morning flight from London to Warsaw, then onto Beijing and finally Zhengzhou totalling about 20 hours of travel. All that part went incredibly smoothly. I wondered how I’d cope in the Chinese airports (experienced globe trotters may laugh), but to be honest, it was easy because everything written had English beside it too. I can safely say airports are a safe haven.
The smoothness went a little rough once I left Zhengzhou airport. I easily found my driver and we began to drive to Dengfeng. Another chap, who held the card with my name, was with the taxi driver. I believe he was the master’s son, but I wasn’t sure. After some Olympic focused small talk and my best examples of badminton and weightlifting, they asked a couple of times if I wanted noodles. I said no originally because a) I wasn’t hungry and b) I was a bit suspicious of scams (like the Beijing tea scam you read about everywhere). It’s cruel, but without knowing who they definitely were and both people being my first experience of Chinese people here, I was a little apprehensive and didn’t want to take any risks. I just wanted to get to the school thinking there would be someone western there who could give me the 101 at my arrival and alleviate any of the initial concerns. They ended up taking me to a noodle shop and asking me to point at what I wanted at the counter. Since we were there, I obliged anyway. All the dishes except one or two looked like they had meat or some dark meat looking substance (could have been soya, but my soya recognising skills are pretty poor because I don’t tend to cook with it). My attempts at “no meat” and “vege” were in vain. I pointed to the dishes that looked like they had no meat. After sitting down, there was a plate of vegetables presented to the three of us, which we shared. I ate a decent amount. Then, from no where, came three huge bowls of noodle soup (one each). I think the first plate was a “starter”. I couldn’t eat it and I was a bit suspicious if it had meat because it looked like the beef noodles I wanted to stray away from. I didn’t want to start my all vege experience with a bowl of beef noodles.
I pretended I was full and after they both asked me to have a little, I didn’t. I think I may have offended them, because the conversation in the car afterwards seemed a little less cheerful. I thought I’d rather do that, (and make it up with a tip) than eat meat. They paid for the food and didn’t accept my offer of money at the time. I felt even more bad after that. They asked if I wanted to do “shopping”, to which I declined because I didn’t want to get something else wrong and to me, shopping after food was definitely dubious.
After dropping me off and introducing me to what looked like the guy running the place, both the driver and the master’s son disappeared off. By running the place, I don’t mean teaching kung fu, but rather the accommodation. He’s a very calm and thankfully speaks English. I told him I need to learn mandarin, because I feel guilty. He taught me a few words. He looks like he’s in his early twenties. The managers mate turned up and all three of us jumped in his mini van to head into town. What was better explained by the manager, was that the “shopping” was because I’d need some clothes for training (I did think they’d give them to me on arrival) and some tissues (for the loo), two bowls for my food, a water bottle and some washing powder for my clothes.
He said there wasn’t any specific clothes for the school, so in the shop, I had my choice of what to wear. Tempting as it was to take the full Shaolin monk outfit, I opted for the plain grey suit like I had seen some of the other kids running around in. So far, I’ve relied heavily on everyone’s ability to speak English. It’s really bad, but right now, that’s all I got. My attempts to speak what little mandarin I thought I knew were blown to shreds when I even attempted to decipher what was being said. All the few words that I knew, I was under the impression I could pronounce, but from their lack of understanding, it’s obvious that I can’t 🙁
At 6:30, after some rest, I joined them for dinner. It was rice and veg in one bowl and noodles in the other. I think they gave me double helpings (when I compare what the other kids got). Not sure if my eating habits got round to the others. Some of the kids asked me questions at dinner.
- How old am I? (they’re in their teens)
- Do I have a girlfriend?
- What’s my job?
- How do you say queens name “Elizabeth”?
After dinner, it’s relax, then bed time.
As I write this, I can hear kids talking Mandarin in the background as I’m lying in bed ready to sleep. I have absolutely no idea what they’re saying. I wonder if by the end of the 2 months, I’ll be able to understand anything. In fact, I have no idea who else is living here (adults, families or just kids). My room is never locked, but I’m told everyone here are “friends”. Not sure how comfortable I am having a life’s worth of their earnings in an open room.
I’m in my own room, which has three bunk beds. All empty. What I mean by empty though, is no mattress, but remains of useful items they had (e.g. shoes, hangers, water bottles). There’s also a half used 10L water bottle, which I’m told should last me a month or so. If I’m being honest, I’ve seen prison cells which are more comforting, but I think I’m just not used to rural Asia yet. At least I have a room to myself though. Those water purifying tablets are gonna come in handy. I’m doing the sums to ration them as we speak. On the plus side, their plug sockets are international (i.e. can take any plug). The silk liner immediately came in handy, with the temperature in the high 20s, sleeping in the liner is like a perfectly temperate sleeping bag.
My alarm is set for 5:20, to give me a 10 min heads up on the others for the morning training.