This is well and truly my home now! I am totally settled – I have a routine, I’ve got a bike, I’ve got a gym, I know which buses take me where, I have a favourite place to buy snacks/fruit, I recognise some of the locals, and I know my way around Houjie. Awesome!
Having a bike in China is… interesting. It’s like having a constant stream of near-death experiences. I try and avoid busy areas as much as I can, although to be honest as long as you are constantly aware and ready to brake if you need to, you’ll be fine. Everyone rides bikes here, even children! The thing that makes it scary is that everyone in China just constantly beeps their horn – they seem to do it instead of indicating, or even if I’m just standing at the side of the road and they think I’m going to walk out in front of them (which I’m not, I can see them!). So when you’re on your bike and you’re constantly hearing horns right behind or beside you, it makes you jump a bit and you think they’re honking at you. Also apparently there is no highway code in China. This basically means there are no rules on the road… cars go through red lights, they drive on the wrong side of the road (bikes do too, it’s seriously annoying), they park in the most random and inconvenient places… like the middle of the road. Crazy China. I love having a bike though, it’s so convenient and also useful for exploring.
Week 2 at Dao Ming school left us all completely and utterly drained. Such a tiring week, we’re still getting used to teaching I guess and planning is still taking a while. Still loads of fun though! We observed a few other lessons to get some ideas for our own lessons, which was useful.
The plan was to go to Foshan that weekend, which is a few hours away. In the end though, we just weren’t prepared enough – turns out there is so much to do there and so we would probably have to travel down on Friday after school and book a hostel, so we’ll do it another weekend. And I’m glad we hung around our area – we heard that nearby Dongkeng was hosting a massive waterfight in the square, as good luck for the New Year, so some of us decided to go. Best New Year ritual ever! The idea is that the more wet you get, the more luck you get in the New Year. I say Dongkeng is nearby, it took us 2 hours and 3 buses to get there… that’s ‘nearby’ in China! It is still part of Dongguan. Luckily buses are a few pence each so I didn’t mind the long trip, I even managed to get a few naps in; true China style (they can nap anywhere, even standing up on a super crowded bus).
I don’t think we quite knew what we were letting ourselves in for with this waterfight. We kind of guessed that, being Western, we would be targeted, but we had no idea as to the extent!! We got off the bus quite a way from the square and decided to walk there, as soon as we got off the bus there were cries from all around as Chinese people armed with enormous water pistols ran at us and started drenching us with water! People who lived in the apartments above were throwing buckets of water down, and within 30 seconds we were all soaked through. We rushed to buy some pistols so we had some chance of defending ourselves, and a nearby woman helped us fill up with water out of her bucket which was nice of her! It was all still quite tame at this stage, but we started the long walk to the square and the closer we got the more people there were – this waterfight must have gone on for miles, all the way down the streets of Dongkeng, it was so huge! It started to get way more intense as we neared the square, there were several people in gangs with matching clothes or water pistols, some of them even had their own flag, they were lethal! We were hopelessly outnumbered especially as we all kept losing each other in the crowds. Sometimes all you could do was put your hands up to surrender and let them soak you until their water ran out. The funny thing was that some of the Chinese people in this water fight were practically dry – we were soaked through!! The gangs were definitely targeting people and we were a pretty obvious target, being the only white people there! Everyone had their phones out videoing us and taking pictures, we will no doubt be all over WeChat (the Chinese version of Facebook). The only photos I’ve got are from the very beginning or the very end – there was no chance of getting a camera out in all the craziness once we got closer to the square!
Some people tried to help us – the police got involved at one point, they were in a car and rolled down their window to tell everyone to stop, everyone just started squirting at the police instead, so they gave up. A few of the gangs asked us to join them and they protected us for a bit, but again gave up after a while when they realised what a liability we were! We actually never even made it to the square, we reached a point where the mobs of people meant we could go no further; we literally couldn’t move. So we had to turn back. This was after about 2 hours of being constantly soaked! Seriously fun, and so tiring. Awesome day. And I guess we get good luck now…
Got back quite late, it was nice to get dry. Spent the evening at the food market, which is the best place for street food in Houjie. It was the first time I’d had dinner there as we eat in the school canteen on weekdays. It’s such an awesome place in the evening; there are loads of different stalls doing hotpots, BBQs, dumplings, stir-frys, and other tasty foods, and they set out chairs and tables across the whole market. I went for some BBQ food which was quite spicy and really good. They like spice here! Can’t wait to try some more dishes on the weekends.
Apparently it’s quite common to see animals like pigs or sheep being slaughtered at the market, and there was a dead sheep by one of the stalls that night. The next day it had been skinned and hung up – every bit of it. I can imagine it’s not pleasant to see an animal being slaughtered, but at the same time that is how we get meat…
On Sunday I needed to get the gears on my bike sorted out, so I headed into Houjie. Had a nice chat with the woman in the bike shop and she recommended a restaurant for lunch, so I headed there. Got excited when I saw a picture of what looked like spaghetti bolognaise on the menu, for a very cheap price, so I ordered it… it turned out to be nothing like spaghetti bolognaise, and it tasted really weird! Not sure what it was at all, I ate half to be polite and then just picked up a snack after. After a gym session I had a nice wander around Houjie on the bike, posing for some photos with giggly Chinese people (standard) and I’ve definitely got the hang of where places are now.
That evening, me along with the other foreign teachers at Dao Ming (Catherine, Andreas, Mikkel) had been invited to dinner with one of my Grade 4 student’s parents. It was a really nice evening; her mum is such a good cook, we had some really delicious Chinese food, and I chatted to my student and played with their kitten. Great weekend – now into week 3!