黄山/Yellow Mountain

黄山/Yellow Mountain
Huangshan Shi, China

Huangshan Shi, China


Kaili’s here! We celebrate my birthday in Shanghai with a wonderful meal comprised of Chinese food and western wine, and then get our trekking shoes back on. That about sums us up. Yellow mountain is an overnight train ride away from Suzhou and we grin to each other as we head down to the platform, thinking about memories already made on this railway network. Except this time I can (sort of) explain myself to the locals! The heavens open in Huangshan town as we bustle across the station square through the touts, and the cloud cover stays with us most of the way up the mountain. Still Huangshan is moody and atmospheric, and there is a charming cheer when the clouds part and we can finally observe the scenery that has written the mountain into Chinese folklore. Nanjing also features on a trip that knackers my routine and commitment to my Chinese studies; all I can think about for some time after are more days together spent on the road.


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A semester at university in China

A semester at university in China
Suzhou Shi, China

Suzhou Shi, China


I’m late for my first class. Moving as quickly as possible to a seat at the back of the full classroom, I unpack pens and empty notebooks next to a Japanese gentleman probably in his 50s. On a PowerPoint slide facing us behind our new teacher is a list of drugs that are illegal in China. The advice continues; we aren’t to binge drink and we must go to bed early on school nights. Little else during the initial classes gets through to me. The teaching is almost entirely in Chinese, and there is a heavy focus on writing and reading, two skills I barely considered during my self-study in Singapore. This being academic level three out of six, the other students can write and understand characters and construct interesting sentences in conversation. There is a lot of work to do very quickly. Two weeks of ten hour days-in strict compliance with the above lifestyle guidelines, of course-follow. Outside the classroom, Soochow University’s scenic, tree-studded main campus is not so drastically different from a UK university environment. Squared off by security checks and populated by some 300 foreign students as well as the locals, it is a bubble and a break from chaotic ‘real China’. That bubble isn’t impervious to cultural intrigue however; a metallic bell marks every half hour, electric scooters chirp constantly and on the short walk between the dorms and the classroom we are frequently passed by marching and chanting student army cadets. A running track sits alongside the accommodation, populated largely by denim and business suit-wearing joggers. When the Chinese fancy some exercise, they don’t let a restrictive trouser suppress the endorphins. Meanwhile back in the classroom I stand up when it’s my turn and scuffle through “我叫 Edward, 我今年31岁” A small step on a long journey…