Last weekend, although it was only 6pm, the sun had already set and I was guided by the moon to the West Lake park around the Xihu area of Fuzhou. With a large lake, a pagoda and multiple beautiful seating areas, I decided to wander until I was lost…
After a while of wandering and happily zoning in and out of passer-by’s conversations, I found a communal seating area. I went and sat in the corner, behind a pillar from the group of people already sitting, as I didn’t wish to be stared at as often happens. I peacefully sat, and as time went on, elderly Chinese people began to sit around me, the area filling up. I continued to zone out, and flick through my phone, until one man engaged me in conversation. At first, I was weary. But an hour and a half later, I was still eagerly navigating my way through conversation with, by then, a group of 10 kind, elderly Chinese folk who spoke no English. They sang for me, and told me stories of which I understood little, but smiled and nodded enthusiastically. I was welcome in this conversation, and they didn’t mind that my Chinese was limited. Having been here for 5 months, they thought it wonderful I was even trying. (Again, I think this was the case. I can never be certain). But the love was there, and I have since fondly recalled this story to my Chinese teacher, and anyone else that would listen.
The weekly work lunch on a Sunday has become a great treat too, that everyone in my small office looks forward to. Fuzhou has become a lot more gentrified (from what I’m told) in the last couple of years, so each week we have started to order in a Western styled feast from different places. First, we went to Fangs Burgers, for the beefiest treats, with a beautiful amount of free chicken thrown in! My favourite so far though, was just after Pie Day. The Sunday fell just after, so my boss very eagerly posted up an empty sheet on the notice board to take in the orders of preference, very thoughtfully.
This was to ensure that instead of the usual umming and ahhing that accompanies the decision of what to eat, by the time everyone was out of class and ready to eat, the food would be piping hot and ready for consumption. Not a single person was disappointed, and I’m eagerly awaiting the coming Sunday.
This weekend was also a pleasant break. Belonging to a small expat community, and an even smaller branch in my school, there becomes a point where spending every single day with the same 3 people can reach its breaking point. My time at work has been a little strained in the last two weeks, as I fell into conflict with the school principle over intellectual property rights. As it stands, the concept has a very different meaning in the UK vs China. The result has led to some very uncomfortable weeks at school, and is currently being dealt with. Thus, I needed a break. Fortunately, I had my trusty friends from other branches at the ready, to ply me with extremely aesthetically pleasing and tasty alcohol from La Moda, overlooking the glorious river that works its way around Fuzhou. (I’m still in two conflicting views of day drinking, but hey, when needs must!) We spent many hours gossiping about anything other than work, and sharing hilarious anecdotes, which it turned out was just what I needed, and I returned to work again the next day, fresh and ready to continue taking on the challenges of expat life.
The best moment though this past fortnight has been the unexpected fashion statement we have started to make as a school. By nothing more than sheer coincidence, it would appear that red plaid shirts are the new fashion staple. Turning up on the last day of the week, I found myself, an Irish colleague and our Chinese head of sales, in arguably, the same shirt. Were we to switch throughout the day, it’s unlikely that anyone would have noticed. Highly amused, we took the opportunity to film copious amounts of boomerangs until we found one I was happy enough to share. Each standing around outside the local shop under our school, we showed off our best turns and poses. I’d like to think we positively promoted the school whilst successfully highlighting our fashion prowess though, and eagerly look forward to identifying the next fashion statement I just KNOW that our school will be making, as the forward-thinking individuals we are.
I didn’t realise just how in love with SanFang QiXiang and the surrounding areas I am until these last few weeks, however with the area boasting free parking, copious eating and drinking holes and a beautiful park, it’s hard not to spend every free minute there. Alone or with friends, this location has my heart.