I got my hair cut today, not normally something I’d feel the need to write home(page) about – apologies for shit internet pun – but it was incredible! I wasn’t taking any chances so I brought a wee photo along of me with short hair and took quite a while selecting which establishment would have the honour of my patronage. Shanghai is crammed with hairdressers, and they’re usually all empty. They’re all staffed by young blokes with ridiculously coiffed peacock hair dos as well so I chose the place where the barbour had the most reserved barnet. My particular ‘stylist’ had what can only be described as an asian afro with a rat tail on the front rather than the back. It trailed down the side of his face like a wet sock. But before I got to him a woman washed my hair and gave me a head massage. I hadn’t asked for this. After twenty minutes of scalp rubbing I began to fear I’d gone to the wrong shop entirely and started peeking around for some scissors. Before I could see any she had me in a kind of head shower that I think Dot Cotton might have used in Eastenders and then I was towelled down. Then I got my hair cut. Then I got my hair washed again and another head massage. The whole process took one hour and it cost 20 RMB.
In the same city I went for a medical so as to obtain my working visa. This included an x-ray, an ultra scan (as in jelly on my belly and a baby-finding device slipping all over my midriff) and a weird process where electrodes were attached to my fingers and cables were placed on my tummy via sticky pads. I felt like bloody Frankenstein! This all took half an hour and cost 740 RMB. Ridiculous.
The grey skies/probably smog of the past couple of weeks have been burned off recently and now shanghai basks in what can only be described as a Torturous Death Ray of Searing Solar Fury. But the skies are blue so that’s nice. In between sweating my face off I went to the park with a couple of mates. This was Forest Park (not to be mistaken for Cammy’s housing estate in Stonehaven) on the outskirts of the city, which took about 40 minutes to get there by scooter – bare in mind I thought we were on the outskirts. It has funfair rides, lakes and unsurprisingly a fair bit of forest, which is mighty refreshing considering the concrete jungle I reside in. Kids on pedalos attacked us with super soakers as we drank beer on the shore, a woman tried to charge us money for playing football on some grass and brides were being photographed everywhere! This being one of the only large parks in shanghai, all brides-to-be like to get some ‘natural’ pictures of themselves frolicking with their grooms in some flowers whilst in their wedding garments. The thing is there’s absolutely nothing natural about a bloke in a tux leaping in the air with a bouquet while his fiancée sniffs a tree. Or a bride lies in some earth as her man sprinkles petals on her face. I watched for quite a while.
Later on we went to a very expensive but very great Belgian beer bar where they served loads of the beers Cam had stored in our cellar back in Cressy Terrace. Between the three of us we spent well over 1000 RMB and I fell asleep in the taxi.
Yesterday was another scorcher, so it was only natural that we made the long metro journey to Dino Beach, the biggest water park in Shanghai. My dreams of going down endless slides over and over again were immediately quashed upon arrival however. Roughly the population of Belgium had decided to turn up (but in asian form) and even getting space to put on my togs in the changing room was like attending the Hajj. We went straight to the wave pool and you couldn’t see the water for people in rubber rings, it was like a giant undulating Chinaman soup. I tried to join in without a ring and felt like I was about to be eaten by Rick Moranis in Honey I Shrunk The Kids. The rapids were much the same, a congested highway of partially drowned children being bashed against the walls by a malfunctioning wave machine. For lunch we went to a fast food joint where the floor was a soggy combination of chips and verruca skin. We managed one slide because the queue was so long and even then my mate Danny fell off his mat immediately and slithered down at half-speed. Strangely enough though I had tonnes of fun. I genuinely can’t explain it but I did.
That night we saw a huge fight outside in the courtyard of our apartment complex. An old man slapped a woman, a kid jumped off a railing a la Hulk Hogan and succeeded in landing on his face and the police did bugger all. There was a drawn-out mediation process and people slowly went home again. Great fun!
Words I learnt this week – good bye (zie jien – kind of) and I don’t understand what I hear (Tim Bu Dong) or see (Cam Bu Dong). Fluent.
Thanks for the replies folks – it’s nice to see some familiar banter on here and I miss you all dearly! I just finished a mammoth skype sesh with Rachel ‘stinky chebs, echo-basin, well of a thousand truths’ Morton and it will no doubt be the first of many catch-ups/shameless gossips. Alas I didn’t have much gossip per se as the only girls I’ve met here have been chinese. This means they are either looking for a quick marriage to a westerner or they’re a hooker. I could be generalising here but I’m pretty sure that’s scientifically accurate. The past week has gone by ridiculously quickly. Everybody here is in a mad rush so it’s obviously having an effect. People scoff at queues and courtesy as needless wastes of time and I was laughed at the other day for holding a door open. Even in the swimming pool they don’t bother with lanes and half the patrons were opting for widths while the rest of us attempted lengths. This resulted in a kind of swimming connect 4 where everyone vied for the longest straight of open water. I don’t recall nearly drowning with connect 4 mind, nor swearing quite so much. Ah yes, swearing. No-one speaks english whatsoever so I’ve become scarily accustomed to swearing at people when they annoy me, safe in the knowledge there will be no rebuke, physical or otherwise. This could go wrong though. I taught my first lesson on sunday, which is why I’m here predominantly, and it was tough, gruelling but very rewarding. There are a couple of 3 year olds in one of my classes. They can barely walk they’re so young , let alone speak a foreign language. I’ve realised early on that if I can just get them to say their name or age I’ll have been a success.
The night life here is as expected, rather variable. So far I’ve been to a 1930s burlesque house complete with free cocktails, a couple of banging neon clubs where they play dance remixes of Leona Lewis’ song at the end of Avatar (as shit as you’re imagining) and many, many restaurants. From all you can eat japanese joints (10 quid including all drinks) to chicken hot pot or indeed a weird blue-clad eatery where the whole place toasted the foreigner (me) and I taught them how to say Fernando Torres.
Next up, I have to learn chinese or at least enough so I can order food or get a taxi without phoning for help or dying. Oh and if you haven’t seen Toy Story 3 yet, stop what you’re doing and go. Best trilogy ever. Apart from Star Wars of course but that goes without saying.
OK, the great firewall of china has blocked facebook amongst other things so keeping in touch with everybody and creeping on photos has become a darn sight harder! So I’ve managed to start a blog, which might not last long as they’re clamping down on blogs as well – too many opinionated sorts out by the Himalayas see (I dare not say the T word as digital Mao might be watching) but I will continue with this while I can. The more important bit is that you can leave comments on this page so I can hear what you’re all up to, and if any of you fancy a wee trip out here (recommended for 1.cultural mind melt and 2. Thirty pence beers) please state your intentions so I can excited! I’m just getting started on a teaching job out here and have the contract for 12 mopnths. The money is pretty good and the accommodation is free. I however, am in constant battle with the city of shanghai, trying to eat something decent, buy something simple like a pen or navigate my way to a bar are all things that most foreigners out here manage with casual aplomb. This is me though. Versus 19 million apathetic locals. So please keep in contact as I’ll need all the support I can get!
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