Since we arrived back from Shanghai.. I have not stopped. The past four days have been a massive build up to me having to actually pack my bag and head off on my travels. Although I’m sat on the Guangzhou metro getting more and more excited by the idea that I’m going to complete my bucket list for China, it has not been easy to leave Ningbo behind. So.. I’ll fill in from when we collapsed back in Ningbo from Shanghai on Saturday shall I?
Lisa and I had planned to host a dinner party at my flat on the Monday (18th). We have wanted to cook food together for a while and we finally bit the bullet and made it calendar official. So Saturday afternoon was spent planning the dishes we were going to cook and the ingredients. I, on little sleep and probably just adrenaline, ended up going out to a bar called Lucas with Michael and Heather around ten o’clock that evening. This quick drink turned into not making it home until four o’clock in the morning! We didn’t get drunk, and actually had a midnight snack in between the bar and the club, and it was great! A good final night out in Ningbo 🎉
The only negative was that I was awake early to go shopping for food and having already been slightly sleep deprived, I was feeling a bit like a zombie! Sunday turned into a long day of acquainting myself well with the various supermarkets in Ningbo. Lisa and I headed to two near our campus then I continued to Walmart in Wanda Plaza Shopping Centre for the last few bits! We were expecting around twenty people… So the shopping bags were very full! The only small issue I still haven’t accustomed to is that all Chinese supermarkets strongly smell of fresh seafood and meat. Most have fish tanks full of live creatures (the meat section doesn’t have this – just to clarify!) that customers can pick. It is a sight that causes almost all westerners to be struck with a sudden sympathetic need to save these animals and chuck them back in the sea. As well as think: “how can they do this to them?”. But I guess this is what happens behind the scenes back in the west, so we’re not desensitised to it at all. And speaking of desensitisation, I have definitely been converted. (People who are sensitive towards this.. I apologise..) For the meal, we decided to steam fish and cook a chicken. Having not planned on going to Walmart, our only option had been buy an entire chicken with legs and a head. I had to behead it and de-leg it. It did make me cry a little inside. But it was a yummy chicken. Secondly I de-scaled and gutted three fish. Proud Dad?
Moving swiftly on…
I also had a haircut so my hair wouldn’t be thick and heavy for when I travel in over thirty degrees heat. This was slightly nerve racking. We all know that going to the hairdressers at home is a trial in itself. Unless you have a simple hairdo or no hair, you hope you’ll walk out with a converted you styling a haircut that makes you look like the next Hollywood star. I hesitantly entered the hairdressers and approached the front desk saying I wanted a haircut in broken Chinese and a few hand gestures. I was then put in a queue of other people waiting to have their hair washed. Once that was done, the challenge had begun. I had saved a few pictures I’d browsed for on the Internet onto my phone and showed them to the hairdresser. Also adding that I’d only like it a little bit shorter. At first he just stared at me, looking as nervous as I felt, and furrowed his brow. So I started again, this time actually using Chinese. With a few words and more hand gestures, we were ready to begin. Luckily no disaster struck! Although he blow dried it in a way that made it stick out in many different directions, it was better that I expected. So, I still love China. Haha.
Lisa and I spent the whole of Monday preparing and cooking for the meal that evening. I also sat my last exam which went well so the adrenaline was definitely kicking in and keeping my tiredness at bay. The meal was a success. Most people came and almost all the food was eaten. Despite the final hour (we were an hour late cooking too) being absolutely manic and included Lisa and I running about the tiny kitchen as well as changing into something that smelt less of chicken and fish. We cooked a variety of dishes, the favourite being ‘charsiu pork’ (a barbecue-like fried pork, honestly, it is amazing.). The others were Steamed Black Bean Yellow Fish, Mapo Tofu, Aubergine and Peppers, Pak Choi in Oyster sauce, Pork Stir Fried Rice, Vegetable Stir Fried Rice and Lemon Chicken as well as a Tomato and Mushroom Soup!
The Notts group also enlightened me to the fact that they had a bet about me whilst we were in Shanghai. As it is very common for me to say ‘为什么?’ (why?), ‘什么?’ (what?/pardon?) and other short Chinese phrases, they put it to the test of how often I do it. Molly wagered that I’d only speak Chinese 18 times, Luis was he opposite and said 56 times. The rest of them bet in between those to numbers with Becky getting it spot on at 33 times. I was utterly unaware of this until they told me once we were back in Ningbo. So, impressively enough, when they asked me how many times I think I did it, no word of a lie, my first guess was 33 times. BOOM! I somehow know myself all too well. Hence I have been stuck with a nickname ‘zhongguo (Chinese) Georgie’. I think it has a good ring to it, no? 😄
Suddenly Tuesday flew by and we were on Wednesday. Antonia, Hayden, Molly, Beana and Juliet were all packed to leave for good on the Wednesday. Luis and Becky were ready to head off to Hangzhou for a night as well. They aren’t leaving to travel until this Sunday (24th). Soon enough my alarm was ringing at eight o’clock to get me out of bed and sleepily down stairs to the lobby to say goodbye to the first lot to go, Luis and Becky. (They were coming back after I had left.) Shortly after, we were back down at eleven to wave off Hayden and Antonia who were heading back to the UK and Spain. Lisa and I played badminton with Christoph and his girlfriend Ashley, and it was fun!! Were all quite good so we have quite close matches points wise. Then it was time to say goodbye to Juliet, Molly and Beana who have gone to South-East Asia to travel. At this point it was really starting to dawn on me that I was going to leave too. Even though I had another twenty four hours, it felt like twenty four minutes. I now really understand how the internationals who I met in first year, Christine, Marta, Dibjot and Saul, felt when they left the UK Nottingham University in my first year of university. Plus they were there for a whole year rather than a semester! I would not be able to leave if I were them.
On Wednesday evening I arranged to go to a Chinese restaurant for dinner and so lucky that all the people I had invited came! The food was delicious. When we got back to campus I extended the invite of coming over for a few drinks. The small group of us: Riina, Michael, Lisa, Lea, Anna, Sooguen, Collin and Heather ended up going onto the building roof (don’t worry, it was flat and had a barrier) which was a fantastic way to end the night. It was a starry night, we could see the whole of the campus and it just felt pretty damn special. I really really didn’t want to leave. (This is a common theme and I apologise if I repeat it too much haha.)
Thursday was my D-Day. Many people came to sit on the grass with me for lunch, and came to say goodbye when I left to catch a taxi to the airport. And I cried. I held it in whilst I bid farewell but it was uncontrollable once I was alone. The taxi driver was probably thinking “oh great I’ve got a crying laowai in the back” and did take pity on me by giving me tissues. I know I’m a very emotional person. And goodbyes always get to me. But this time it seemed to be too soon to say it. Only over the past few weeks, even though I’ve loved China more than anything, have I really settled in. With these friends, with the lifestyle, with the idea that if I go travelling; I’ll be back soon enough to see everyone again. However this time they won’t be. We’ll be scattered across the globe again, not in the bubble that is Ningbo. I am still amazed at the fact how people who didn’t know I existed, nor I them, five months ago have come to mean a lot to me. I hope that I do see them again, and I will endeavour to make that happen. It is too common to meet people and never cross paths.. And I don’t like the idea of that one bit. I arrived in China clueless of what it would have waiting for us, expecting almost nothing special to happen and only get to do so much in the short time we’d have. How thankfully wrong I was. I have had one of the most wonderful, exciting and unforgettable times here, have made some wonderful friends who have made it so hard for me to leave and am truly blessed for everything that I’ve experienced over the past five months. Thank you to everyone who’s been part of this adventure.
Now, to Guangzhou…