Ok, so it’s now been more like two weeks since I arrived, and this post might be more accurately named “Week One in Ji’nan”. However, I’m leaving the title of this post as it is, in memory of an epic post I wrote last weekend, which I managed to lose, after learning the hard way that WordPress on mobile doesn’t have the same auto-save feature.
Considering the fact that I arrived here with a tickly cough and broken laptop, and I’m still using my phone to write this (hence the lack of updates), and still checking the air quality index each morning (due to said cough/ general asthma fun) it initially appears as though I haven’t made much progress.
Yet, the fact that I have come to like this place, pollution and all, is a real testimony to some of the people that I’ve met. On top of that, the city is really quite a pleasant place. There is no metro, but this is the capital of Shandong province, there are plenty of cheap and regular buses and taxis. The weather has been on the cold side, but it’s not wet, and some days have been exceptionally sunny and warm for spring, feeling more like the British summer!
There are lakes, mountains, and an old style food-street. Night markets, and street sellers, and amazingly inexpensive places to eat (I wouldn’t go quite as far as calling all of them restaurants as recognised in western Europe).
So that’s the general introduction. Then there’s the specifics; there is an old man who sits with his caged birds at the end of my street. When he saw me inspecting a particularly bright green bird with winged eyes, he whistled, and the bird sung a reply. I’ve already been to two birthday meals, both involving the singing of Happy Birthday in at least three languages. I’ve spoken with people from Korea, Japan, Russia, Mexico, Ecadour, Iran, China, Kenya, India, Spain, Italy, and obviously the UK. I’ve spoken French, Hindi, Mandarin and English in the past week.
I’ve eaten locusts, Korean and Japanese confectionary (Ji’nan has a huge Korean sub-culture, being located opposite the Korean peninsula, and with 90% of international students at my Chinese uni being Korean). I’ve tried so many different styles of Chinese food, wraps, hotpot, malatang, noodle soup. I’m still waiting to try Ji’nan’s specialty, Huang men chicken!
I’ve become used to eating baozi for breakfast, and going to one of the chaotic campus canteens for lunch. I’m still learning to use chopsticks the proper way, but I can get by. What I really can’t wait for is for my spoken Mandarin to get good enough to have meaningful conversations. Watch this space.