How I got to China...
15.08.2008 - 17.08.2008 25 °C
Well I'm here safe so you can all sleep soundly again now
The journey was long but relatively uneventful. Terrible turbulence over Eastern Europe on the first leg of my flight, worst I've ever experienced. It was pretty unsettling but thankfully we got through it unscathed . I managed to grab a couple of hours sleep which was something, think I may have done something to annoy the couple next to me tho since they stopped making eye contact. Perhaps they tried to wake me up and I swore at them? I've been told I do that. Watched Prince Caspian which was a bit rubbish really, but that was followed by watching our landing on the plane's "nose cam," which rocked!
We landed at Dubai fairly early morning, the sun was just coming up when we disembarked. The terminal building is a long way from the area where the planes are moored so we had to get out onto the tarmac and catch a bus. Crazy place, the terrain is all dead flat and the constant haze obscures the horizon so the land blends in with the blue/grey sky. Anyway, didn't get to appreciate it for long as I had a four hour wait to enjoy at the terminal. I have never seen such a busy airport. Seriously, there was barely any room to sit down, people just seemed to take their shoes off and fall asleep anywhere. Maybe their shoes were the source of their power?
Anyways, I managed to kill an hour by wandering round and getting to know the airport, killed another hour or two watching Battlestar Galactica on my iPod, managed to change a little money and buy a McDonalds to tide me over. Didn't feel too bad, figured I'd work it off soon enough. Looking back at it now the time flew by and I caught my connecting flight no problem.
Slept most of the flight to Beijing. Figured I'd need to be alert for my seven hour wait for my connecting flight at Beijing Airport. I woke up in time for the approach and landing tho. I did my best to look for the Olympic site but I couldn't make it out. Plane landed safe and I stepped out into Beijing's shiney, glass-walled airport. It's about here I finally realized I was in China and probably would be for some time. I decided to celebrate by eating some biscuits. Then I watched some more Battlestar Galactica, read an entire book about Tai Chi, rewrote war and peace... heh. Some guys I was sharing the bench with said they wanted to help me eat my biscuits and being a kindly soul I said sure and offered them my water too, looked round and they'd bloody finished them!! What a bunch of gits!! They're just dam lucky I don't know Kungfu.
Check-in opened at 5:30am, two hours before my flight was due to leave so that gave me something to do. The checkin board had been kinda vague about which desk I should go to so eventually I just joined a queue and hoped for the best. It worked and through the fabulous art of international mime I managed to convey that I wanted to go to Yantai and I already had a ticket booked with the airline. Feeling fairly pleased with myself I set off for the gate. Had a little trouble at security when they started asking me questions and my mime skills failed me. This time I resorted to staring blankly which seemed to be effective as they waved me through.
I can't remember the flight to Yantai, I must have gone out like a light. I feel a little guilty as the flight wasn't very full and they were making all the announcements in English as well as Mandarin, clearly for my sole benefit. I woke up in time for landing to find one of the Stewardesses had left a bottle of water and something small and ambiguous wrapped in tinfoil beside me. I was grateful for the water but suspicious of the small parcel so said my goodbyes and legged it before they noticed I'd left their unidentified foodstuff untouched.
Yantai Airport is kinda... what's the word? Provincial? Put it this way, there were plants growing through the tarmac, you walked off the runway into the baggage claim, which was dark because none of the lights worked... you get the idea. Found my luggage ok despite being in the dark as there were only about 10 bags coming off the plane and just the other side of the room was a small row of smiling faces behind a sign with my name on it. Two young ladies (Fiona the translator and Hilary a Canadian student) and two gentlemen (the school driver and Wong Sifu the Shaolin master).
Hilary was very chatty and I think happy to have some new arrivals. Theres been only three people studying these last few weeks as a lot of people had to end their stay because of Olympic visa troubles. The day prior to my arrival another new student had arrived; Kasim, also from England. I spent most of the drive to Muping chatting with Hilary and Fiona who speaks excellent English. China seems a little homogenous at the moment, lots of the buildings look the same and since I can't read the signs I find it hard to differentiate areas.
When I arrived at the school I was shown to my room. The bed had a marvelous "love pig" sheet and pillow cover. I think this is the standard for all Kungfu schools since Kasim in the room next to mine has them too.
I did my best to unpack but they're refurbishing all the buildings atm and I'm a little short on furniture. I think we'll be moving rooms in a couple of weeks, not sure whether I should invest in some shelves now or wait a while.
At lunch I met the other students here at the school. There's Shlomit from Israel who I knew already from e-mailing her when I was researchingt he school and Jamie, who I was disappointed to learn has no magic torch (but has spent a considerable amount of time studying Mantis fist so be polite). After lunch a few of us went for a walk up the road to see a lake, which was nice, played a little pool, badly, then I went back to my room and accidentally fell asleep. I woke up to see Kasim standing in my doorway, looked at my clock and it said six o'clock. I figured it was Monday morning and I was late for Taichi, but no, I was just making a dick of myself when I started panicing and jumped out of bed trying to work out where the hell I was since it was actually dinner time Sunday evening.
The food here is pretty good, they always have a couple of vegetarian dishes and a couple for normal people, plus the rice every meal. Chopsticks are obligatory since they have no knives and forks but I've been coping like a pro .
After dinner I was introduced to the headmaster, Qu Sifu and we discussed (with the help of Fiona's excellent language skills) what I would be studying. I said that I had intended to study Shaolin kungfu but that I knew little about Mantis fist and that I would welcome any advice he could offer. He said maybe I could train Shaolin for the first 6 months and Mantis for the next six months. I said that'd be lovely
There's five students total, four on the Mantis Kungfu roster, one (me) on the Shaolin path.
Since it was sunday and there was no Olympics showing on telly the students decided to hijack the school projector and watch Forbidden Kingdom. Unfortunately the disc would not work in the DVD player so we put on a Chinese movie... but that didn't have English subtitles so we put on a third movie (also Chinese, anyone heard of Jet Li's Bodyguard from Beijing?) which had chapter select in Mandarin script but for some reason was dubbed in English and had no Mandarin subtitles... a dvd that can only be operated by a team of Mandarin and English speakers. Some kind of conspiracy? I'll let you decide
After this wonderful cinematic masterpiece I found I was once again feeling tired so headed for bed, hoping to be fresh for my first days kungfu...